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Re: External Link Icons


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Sep 28, 2007 8:00AM

Karl Groves wrote:

> I have witnessed, on numerous
> occasions, participants in the lab leave the site we were testing and
> be completely unaware that they had done so.

Such things do happen, though we cannot really know how often - we can
observe such situations but we don't know how representative they are.

Before asking whether external link icons would help in this problem, we
should ask whether it is a problem and whose problem it is. If the site
owner's purpose is to keep people in his site, then it's _his_ problem but
users - who may find answers to their problems in other sites via the
links - have no problem with this phenomenon as such.

> This indicates to me that it is it is very important to make sure
> users know when they are leaving your site.

Important to whom? If I find something I need by following a link to
example2.com at example.com, then "leaving a site" is not my problem. But
example.com can create a problem by making noises when I am about to leave
example.com. External link icons are not very serious noise (opening new
windows and showing transition pages or transition effects are serious
noise), but they are still noise.

> While I have had the opportunity to observe people failing to notice
> when they leave a site, I've not yet witnessed what methods work to
> let them know they've left.

The methods vary by the kind and mount of noise that they make. They may
also vary by their "effectiveness" in making the user understand that he is
changing site - but that is something that he normally need not know.

> In fact, they may wonder what the heck that weird icon is.

Indeed, especially since everyone and his brother use _different_ icons for
the purpose.

If it _really_ matters that some links are external, you normally can and
should _say_ that they are external and why that matters. For example, you
might want to say that a linked resource is not reliable and has not been
updated for years but it is still the best available resource on... whatever
it is about. Oops, I didn't say it was external. Should I? Why would _that_
matter, assuming that the visitor did not guess it?

Jukka K. Korpela ("Yucca")