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Re: Links in context - or not?


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Nov 1, 2008 5:00AM

Keith Parks wrote:

> How do you make the distinction between essential and non-essential
> links?

By deciding which links are needed by a large number of users for the
purpose of getting information (or interacting) on the main topic of the
page. For example, if the page sells something, then a link to a page where
you can actually buy the product is essential, and so is a link to a more
detailed product description than the page itself contains. A link to a
biography of the designer of the product is non-essential, even though some
people might find it very interesting and it might actually help to sell the

> What one person might consider a helpful, relevant link might be of no
> interest to someone else.

Surely, and the same applies to content in general. As authors we need to
deal with such issues anyway.

> <http://www.sa.sdsu.edu/nspp/orientation/transfer/parents.html>;
> In the bottom half of the page is a section about our Parents
> Association. In it there's an inline link to the association's Web
> site.

In non-visual presentation, it will be rendered roughly as follows:

"Aztec Parents Association Parents as Partners in contributing to student
Aztec Parents Association logo Parents have a personal connection to
SDSU through the LINK /Aztec Parents Association/. Membership in the Aztec
Parents Association ..."

Rather repetitive, isn't it? And the occurrence of the name that is a link
is neither the first nor the last one but somewhere in the middle. Why would
_that_ be the point where the user decides to follow the link? Even in
visual reading, wouldn't it be more natural to see the link after you have
read what the current page says about the topic?

> The link is provided as a convenience, but it is probably not
> "essential, since hopefully someone could find the page through other
> means.

Being essential doesn't mean that. It means that the link points to
something that essentially adds to the main theme of the page.

But in a sense, you make a good point implicitly, a different point. Linking
in general, essential or non-essential, isn't as important and as useful as
it used to be. For example, a name like "Aztec Parents Association", used in
quotes, will most probably give the page of the association among the very
first hits in Google.

(Of course, there's also the dilemma, or paradox, that Google heavily relies
on linking.)

> But I can't see the upside of taking delinking that text, and
> repeating it at the bottom of the paragraph with a note that it is a
> "relevant link."

(Who suggested such a note?)

Admittedly, taking links away from the flow of the text has the problem of
adding repetition, especially if you want to use meaningful link texts that
make sense out of context, as you should. On news pages, for example, the
"read more" links are very common and bad accessibility, but I can
understand why they are used. In good style, you would have a heading, maybe
a subheading, then copy text, and finally a link to the full text of the
news, the link text being the same as the heading (or perhaps a different
formulation). So the heading would be repeated, but is this really a bad

Similarly, in a situation like the one on your page, mentioning the
organization's name twice isn't a bad thing. It could appear at the start
and, as a link, at the end. In the text itself you could say just "the
association". If we remove unnecessary repetition, then the repetition
needed for avoiding inside-text linking isn't much of a problem. (We may
have the problem of _formulating_ the link, since e.g. just an organization
name as a link may look abrupt, whereas "There is more information at the
web site..." looks pretty naive.)

Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/