“The Art of Linking” is how Gerry McGovern defines the ability to build effective links on webpages, explaining that links are even more important than the content posted on a page. Don’t believe it? If you think about it, we all use websites to get to something. We recognize that something must be pointed to and subsequently clicked with your mouse. If you can’t find the link you’re looking for, there’s a good chance that you’ll deem that page useless.
[pullquote_left]Giving links power[/pullquote_left] Many times, webpages are filled with content that doesn’t necessarily apply to you. It might be that the page is worth visiting for unique and valuable links, but oftentimes it will also be flooded with unimportant information. This is the first problem — in a webpage, the link should be useful and relevant to what the user is searching for.
Well, here comes the hard part. Assuming that you’re able to remove all the excess non-applicable information from your website and place the relevant link right in the center, will you actually be able to properly communicate what the link is without this copy? It might sound easy, but choosing the right name for a link can be a pretty complicated affair. Luckily for us, Gerry McGovern teaches us how to write effective text links:
Links can often define the architecture of a website. If a website was a building, the code would be the construction technique used; the contents would be the building materials, finishes, accessories and furniture; and the links would be the very structure of the building, such as the hallways that connect one room from the next.
[pullquote_left]Anticipate how the user navigates your website[/pullquote_left] Clicking the links is the most essential, and therefore most difficult, part of the user experience design of your website. To choose how and where to place the link on your site, we must first know how to anticipate the user’s understanding of exactly what they want, then facilitate the layout for easy and effective navigation. If the user spends too long searching for what they’re looking for, they will leave your website and forget you ever existed.
Throw any ambiguity out the window. McGovern coined the phrase “audience-based navigation,” which you can think of as a subdivision of the website that caters to different types of users that will browse the site itself. For example, imagine creating a website for a wedding planning agency. In this case, the audience-based navigation could provide these links:
But the classification system could get sticky. What would happen if you are a mother-in-law who wants to organize a surprise for the bride and groom? Do I click on category 1 or category 2?
To avoid such problems, McGovern recommends:
And, returning to my example, the wedding planning agency’s website may have the following links:
For this post I’ve drawn extensively on articles by Gerry McGovern that I’ve already linked to above. Are you wondering if Gerry agrees that a full article should be written based on his material? The answer is yes. He explains it himself:
“Creating new content through linking and organizing other content is far from being a new human activity. A lot of rap music is about sampling other music and integrating it into a new form. Folk and Blues music is often a pastiche of borrowed lines and melodies.
“The web is a perfect platform for linking and connecting.”
The important thing, I might add, is always to quote the source.