Friday, August 13, 2004

Hypertext Links: how to compose them

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Hypertext links!

They take you to further elaborations and substantiating sources. They transport you to new, connected ideas. They fling you into strange, hopefully beneficial, environments.

And all you have to do is click on them.

Click.

Bang!

You're gone.

Hello!

You're somewhere else.

To return to where you were before, usually all you have to do is click on the Back button of your browser.

Hypertext: text that slides you off one spot and carries you into another.

Linking strategies are based on how the mind operates by associating one thing with another. Actually, any thought could theoretically be linked to any other thought.

Good linking means connecting ideas in a way that's beneficial for users and relevant to the topic of discussion.

So, how do you compose them?

What text should be "linked verbiage"?

How do you decide what words and phrases should be make "clickable"?

(Actually the better term is "selectable," since some users don't use a mouse, but enter keyboard commands, voice activation, etc., to select an item.)

How to digitally convert regular text into functional hypertext is a separate topic.

In this blog site, for example, I just highlight the word or phrase, click on the Link Icon, a field appears in which I select the desired type of "hyperlink" (file, ftp, gopher, http, https, mailto, news, telnet, or wais), type in the URL for the link, click Okay or Cancel, and I'm good to go.


Guidelines for Composing Hypertext Links:

1. Write your regular text.

2. Look at key words and phrases in your text.

3. Determine which key words and phrases should be clarified for your readers. Or what ideas your readers might want to pursue further.

Or which words and phrases carry vital information that users can skim and understand in a hurry.

4. Turn those key words and phrases, or those ideas, into hypertext links.

5. Try to keep phrases short, two or three words, if possible.

6. If you want people to find your blog or web site by typing key words and phrases into a Search Engine, your hypertext links must be made according to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) principles.

SEO can help your site appear at the top of the heap of Search Engine results when users seek web sites in your field of endeavor.

7. Search Engine spiders hunger for relevant content and lots of legitimate outbound links.

So make lots of links, and make sure the wording contained in the links is relevant to the content of your site.

But don't overdo it, because the Search Engine spiders don't like fraudulent attempts to trick them. If fact, they are repulsed by "keyword spamming," using a word or phrase repeatedly in a ridiculous manner, in a web site.

In this site, I turn words and phrases about "usability," "hypertext," "blogs," and other industry terms, into hypertext links.

8. Poor wording for links include: "click here" and "more." These words contain no relevant content for SEO spiders to devour. And you want your links to be scannable, so people can glance at your text and see what it's all about.


Examples of Good Linked Verbiage:

(1.) In the sentence:

Click here to learn how to improve web text scannability.

"improve web text scannability" could be the linked verbiage, and "click here", which formerly was the linked verbiage, should be deleted. Users typically know that blue, underlined text is selectable hypertext. Begin sentence with "Learn how to..."

Thus:

Learn how to improve web text scannability.


(2.) In the sentence:

There are many more examples of linked verbiage that can guide your content writing.

"more examples of linked verbiage" could be the linked verbiage.

Thus:

There are many more examples of linked verbiage that can guide your content writing.



(3.) In the list:

* podcasting

* RSS

* blogrolls

* email comment notification

* trackback

* blog comment spam


...all the text of each asterisked item could be linked verbiage leading to definitions or clarifications.



Check Usability of Your Hypertext Links


Once you've converted key words and phrases of regular text into hypertext links, click on (select) each one of them, to make sure they work. Never assume you typed in the URLs correctly. Never assume the URLs will never be altered (by webmasters changing the archiving system, for example, though URLs as a rule should never be changed for any reason). Click on those links and see if they take you to the desired destination.

In the paragraph below, "Vannevar Bush" was a hypertext link that linked to an article in the online version of The Atlantic magazine.

That article by Vannevar Bush is no longer available to view, unless you pay for a subscription to The Atlantic. It used to be available for anyone to view. This would be considered "link rot": the link no longer works correctly, or leads to a page no longer available. So, I had to make a change in the link destination.

Now, the name Vannevar Bush is a hypertext link that links to an article in the Boxes & Arrows online magazine.

Vannevar Bush, the genius credited with envisioning the first modern, idea-networking computer (his "Memex" concept), called paths that lead to relevant data: "information trails."

Happy (Info) Trails To You.


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