Beyond blue and underlined text.

Almost everybody knows how to identify links. The question isn't whether or not there's a link in front of us, but whether it's a link worth clicking on, whether it will lead us somewhere we might want to go. Years ago, for his Computer Mediated Communications Magazine, John December devised a set of symbols that attempts to give the reader enough information about the link before him or her so that a reasoned decision as to whether or not to click on the link can be reached. December's symbols certainly can be helpful, though because even frequent readers of December's online magazine spend much more time at other sites than they do on his, and because these are far from a universally accepted set of symbols, chances are good that each time someone returns to the magazine he or she has to reacquaint his or herself with them, has to once again learn their meaning. And that, rather obviously, makes these symbols less useful than they might otherwise be.

A blogger (who, judging from the fact that his latest update seems to be from about two years ago, seems to have abandoned his blog) wondered a few years back about the desirability and feasibility of distinguishing between various types of links. Taking off by quoting another site where someone else had wondered about whether internal and external links should be displayed in different colors so that readers would know which led where, he then went on to list types of links: “Matter-of-fact” links, “Related” links, “For more information” links, and continued on to: “Quotation in context” links, “Action” links, “Non-original location” links and more. There is, perhaps, more than a bit of logic in helping readers distinguish between all these, though context, and a bit of thinking, can usually be very helpful in determining what sort link lies before us. Perhaps if we encountered more "on the contrary" links that make us wonder what the connection was that brought us somewhere unexpected, that require us to reflect on the connection between the pages, we'd be more actively involved in asking ourselves where a link will lead us. Sadly, this happens too rarely to make sharpening our link-deciphering senses particularly necessary.

Go to: Dr. Hierarchy and Mr. Associative