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Audience Fit


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3a. Make clear what the user will get from the link.

  • Keep the linktext fairly short, but offer supplementary description of the content on the target page. In running text, describe the target before providing the linktext. In a list of links, put the link first, then the description (perhaps starting on another line).

Example in running text:

Using a process called Directed-Light Fabrication, engineers can now make complex metal parts by fusing metal powder under a laser beam. Essentially, lasers fuse metal parts.

Example in a list item:

  • Lasers Fuse Metal Parts

Using a process called Directed-Light Fabrication, engineers can now make complex metal parts by fusing metal powder under a laser beam.

  • Give enough information about the target content so a casual user can get the gist of the idea, without going to the page. Help people skip clicking.
  • Make the linktext match the title of the target page. If that is not feasible, make the starting text match the beginning of the title.

Title of target page:

Background on Rembrandt

Linktext pointing to that page:

Background on Rembrandt.

  • When offering a bunch of links in a paragraph or list, write the linktexts so a user can distinguish them.

List of links, before:

· Forms and more forms

· Forms in the world

· Forms inform you

List of links, after:

· Creating a form

· Publishing a form

· Pulling information from a form

  • If you have a set of links of a particular type, and you think it might be useful for people to know the kind of pages these links target, add an identifier such as "white paper," or "backgrounder."
  • Add a relevance rating for every anchor, so users can decide how much they really want to download a page that may be off topic.


***** How to Choose a Printer

** Jets vs Lasers: How to Decide

** Lowcost Printers

** Largesize Printers

** Heavy-Duty Printers

* Inks Available by Printer

  • Use boldface lead-ins for each link in a list, followed by a one-sentence or one-phrase plaintext description of the page.

Run-on description

Cognition/Knowledgeability merge: Two leading knowledge-management vendors ink an agreement to combine operations.

New paragraph for description:

IT-ers nix ActiveX:

A survey of IT departments show developers resisting the lure of this technology.

  • If your navigation offers Next, Previous, Back to, Up, See Also, or More links, tell people the name of the page each will take them to.


Next: The Unfolding of Iris Blooms

Previous: How the Iris Grows Up

Up: The Iris Family

See Also:

How Modern Irises Emerged

Types of Iris: A Taxonomy

Other ways to make links hot

3a. Make clear what the user will get from the link.

3b. Within a sentence, make the link the emphatic element.

3c. Shift focus from the links or linked-to documents to the subject.

3d. Provide depth and breadth through plentiful links to related information within your site.

3e. Establish credibility by offering outbound links.

3f. Make meta information public.

3g. Write URLs that humans can read.

3h. Make links accessible.

3i. Tell people about a media object before they download.

3j. Announce the new with special links.

3k. Write meta-tags to have your pages found.

Resources on writing links

Taking a Position on Links

Heuristic Online Text (HOT) Evaluation for Links

















Write surrounding text so as to help people understand what the link does. Help your reader understand where links lead, and what sections contain. They’re paying a time penalty for every link they follow. Help them understand what value they will receive if they traverse a link.

[Cryptic or telegraphic links] force the reader to follow the link before they’re sure the information at the other end is worth reading. If it’s not what they want, their time is wasted, and they often have to back up to continue.

Try to match the link text that someone clicks on with the title of the resulting page. It’s an impossible task to make the text displayed in a link match the title of the destination page. It also makes for maintenance headaches as the titles of documents change. Try to choose link text that has a conceptual similarity to the title and headers of the destination document.

Levine (1997)

One thing I have noticed is that more sites are taking the Yahoo! Approach, which is less is more: smaller GIFs, faster downloads, more usage of text links instead of GIF labels, which all help give the user a more positive experience. Java rollover buttons are also very nice because they allow you to be more explicit in your navigation instructions.—Tchong, in WebSite Journal.

Descriptiveness aids prediction.
"Differentness" aids navigation.
Spool (1997)

When you make a reference, qualify it with a clue to allow some people to skip it. —Berners-Lee (1998)

Semantically typed nodes and links help authors organize information more effectively and lend context for readers. Link types such as ‘explanation,’ ‘further details,’ ‘contrasting argument,’ etc., convey the relationship between the link’s destination and the current node.—Bieber et al (1997)

Use a description of the information to be found in the link, or perhaps the link address. —Sun (1998)

Write links that don’t have to be followed. Providing summary information at the link site can convey enough information to save the reader from following links they would otherwise have to follow just to find out a small amount of information. Following a link is expensive—don’t waste the reader’s time. —Bricklin (1998)

Navigational labels can be augmented by brief descriptions (also known as scope notes) when initially introduced. …

Avoiding the problems associated with inconsistencies between link labels and where they lead is difficult.—Rosenfeld & Morville (1998)

In approximately one fourth of the cases, the link names suggested a wrong idea about the content of a page. —Borges et al (1998)

It is the job of the designer to advise the user and guide them to the most important or most promising choices (while ensuring their freedom to go anywhere they please. —Nielsen (1999e)

The Web is so slow that users cannot be expected to follow all links simply to learn what they are about. The departure page must include sufficient
information to enable users to decide what link to follow next. …

The goal of the link title is to help users predict what will happen if they follow a link. Appropriate information to include in a link title can be:

  • Name of the site the link will lead to (if different from the current site)
  • Name of the subsite the link will lead to (if staying within the current site but moving to a different part of the site)
  • Added details about the kind of information to be found on the destination page, as well as how it relates to the anchor text and to the context of the current page. —Nielsen (1999f)

Use labels that clearly indicate the function of links. …describe the destination and/or resulting action of links…..

Vision-impaired users scan for links using screen readers. For this feature to be useful, however, link labels must make sense on their own, or out of context. —IBM (1999)

Use meaningful and consistent button names to label sections and content areas. Use distinguishing adjectives to label special versions of common Internet activities (for example, Kids Chat or News Chat). —Microsoft (2000)

Be sure that all links clearly indicate their destinations. … Unfortunately, links on many sites fail to achieve this basic requirement. …

Write relatively brief links and augment them with supplementary text. … This strategy often allows for more attractive visual design than is possible with lengthy links. Furthermore, it gives users the option of skipping the supplementary text if the link gives them enough information about the destination.

A similar strategy is to create mouse rollovers (pop-up explanations), often implemented with JavaScript. Rollovers conserve screen real estate (the viewing area on the screen) and reduce visual clutter; the drawback is that the user must move the mouse over the link to get the supplementary information and even to determine that it exists.

Both of these strategies are instances of the information-design strategy called "layering." —Farkas and Farkas (2000)

Include a detailed description of the site. This provides users with an accurate portrait of what they will find when they visit the link, serving as a lure and invitation to learn more about the site.—America Online (2001)

Some Web browsers have recently added the ability to pop up a short explanation of a link before the users selects it. Such explanations can give users a preview of where the link will lead and improve their navigation:

  • Bad links are less likely to be followed; users will waste less time going down the garden path.
  • Increasing users’ understanding of good links helps them interpret the destination page upon arrival: disorientation is reduced. <A HREF="/jakob/" TITLE-="Author biography"--Nielsen (1998)

See bibliography: America Online (2001), Apple (1999), Berners-Lee (1998), Bieber et al (1997), Borges et al (1998), Bricklin (1998), Farkas and Farkas (2000), IBM (1999), Levine (1997), Microsoft (2000), Nielsen (1995, 1998, 1999e, 1999f), Nielsen & Morkes (1997), Rosenfeld & Morville (1998), Spool (1997), Spyridakis (2000), Sun (1998), W3C (1999)

























Audience Fit
If visitors want... How well does this guideline apply?
To have fun The more text, the merrier.  Long explanations of links form part of the entertainment on this page, and let users choose whether or not to go on.
To learn You can make clear what the relationship is between the target page and the one I am reading now.  Educational..
To act Very helpful to let me know ahead of time where I am going and why.  For instance, if you want me to buy something, alert me that I am about to go to your super secure server.
To be aware Sensitive Web writers let users know where they are going--ahead of time.
To get close to people Yes, in your enthusiasm for a particular link, take the time to describe it before just dropping it in.

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