When is a hyperlink NOT?

12 Jul 2008 - 4:29pm
6 years ago
9 replies
872 reads
SemanticWill
2007

Call me old school. Call me a dinosaur wandering the earth right before the
meteor hit and turned my sorry butt to ash, but I still think a hyperlink
should be a hyperlink. Further, I think a contextual link embedded in
content with a anchored link a proper noun should go to that place. The
Washington Post disagrees. Someone there, (cerntainly no one on this list),
probably some horned sulfurous smelling marketing troll decided that a link
should be something different.

I was reading this article "*Take Time to Rewind at the Hirshhorn's
'Realisms" *here: http://tinyurl.com/5z2qvx -- and decided that I really
wanted more information, and to get down to the Hirshhorn and check out the
exhibit. Right there in the middle of the article is Hirschhorn Museum,
underlined, as if it was a hyperlink. I thought to myself, "Self - if I
click this I will go to the Hirshhorn Museum website and see when/where/how
what about this so I can catch it this weekend."

The link did not go to the Hirschhorn Museum website.

It submits a search to the WP website querying all related articles matching
the the string Hirshorn Museum. From the results page there is no way to get
info about the actual museum, it's website URL, or even a profile on the
museum. Guess what? I didn't want to search for related items to Hirschorn
on the WP website. If I wanted to do a search, I would enter it into a
search box and click search. When I see a hyperlinked proper noun - it sure
as hirshorn better take me somewhere I expect.

Thoughts? Any other examples of "links behaving badly?" "links gone wild?"

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | User Experience Architect
tel +1.617.281.1281 | will at semanticfoundry.com
twitter: https://twitter.com/semanticwill
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comments

12 Jul 2008 - 4:51pm
Mark Schraad
2006

I could not agree more WIll. But in an economy of desperation, the
quest for short term profits will likely be changing the nature of
what we come to expect in blue underlined text. Search, and in
particular search driven ads are easy money. I would guess that those
making the decision probably rationalized that, your expected
destination was just one more click once you got 'all the interesting
links' in front of you. And, if you clicked on the paid for link...
or another, then all the better. Is that more user centric?

Mark

On Jul 12, 2008, at 5:29 PM, Will Evans wrote:

> Call me old school. Call me a dinosaur wandering the earth right
> before the
> meteor hit and turned my sorry butt to ash, but I still think a
> hyperlink
> should be a hyperlink. Further, I think a contextual link embedded in
> content with a anchored link a proper noun should go to that place.
> The
> Washington Post disagrees. Someone there, (cerntainly no one on
> this list),
> probably some horned sulfurous smelling marketing troll decided
> that a link
> should be something different.
>
> I was reading this article "*Take Time to Rewind at the Hirshhorn's
> 'Realisms" *here: http://tinyurl.com/5z2qvx -- and decided that I
> really
> wanted more information, and to get down to the Hirshhorn and check
> out the
> exhibit. Right there in the middle of the article is Hirschhorn
> Museum,
> underlined, as if it was a hyperlink. I thought to myself, "Self -
> if I
> click this I will go to the Hirshhorn Museum website and see when/
> where/how
> what about this so I can catch it this weekend."
>
> The link did not go to the Hirschhorn Museum website.
>
> It submits a search to the WP website querying all related articles
> matching
> the the string Hirshorn Museum. From the results page there is no
> way to get
> info about the actual museum, it's website URL, or even a profile
> on the
> museum. Guess what? I didn't want to search for related items to
> Hirschorn
> on the WP website. If I wanted to do a search, I would enter it into a
> search box and click search. When I see a hyperlinked proper noun -
> it sure
> as hirshorn better take me somewhere I expect.
>
> Thoughts? Any other examples of "links behaving badly?" "links gone
> wild?"
>
> --
> ~ will
>
> "Where you innovate, how you innovate,
> and what you innovate are design problems"
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------------------
> Will Evans | User Experience Architect
> tel +1.617.281.1281 | will at semanticfoundry.com
> twitter: https://twitter.com/semanticwill
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------------------
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

13 Jul 2008 - 9:10am
jabbett
2008

Sometimes I like to e-mail offending websites as an unassuming
user-off-the-street and ask the dumb question -- why doesn't your
website work the way I expect it to?

If these sites get enough negative feedback, it's like free user
research, right?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/admin/help/popup/frame_pageAskQuestion.html

On Sat, Jul 12, 2008 at 5:51 PM, mark schraad <mschraad at gmail.com> wrote:
> I could not agree more WIll. But in an economy of desperation, the quest for
> short term profits will likely be changing the nature of what we come to
> expect in blue underlined text. Search, and in particular search driven ads
> are easy money. I would guess that those making the decision probably
> rationalized that, your expected destination was just one more click once
> you got 'all the interesting links' in front of you. And, if you clicked on
> the paid for link... or another, then all the better. Is that more user
> centric?
>
> Mark
>
>
> On Jul 12, 2008, at 5:29 PM, Will Evans wrote:
>
>> Call me old school. Call me a dinosaur wandering the earth right before
>> the
>> meteor hit and turned my sorry butt to ash, but I still think a hyperlink
>> should be a hyperlink. Further, I think a contextual link embedded in
>> content with a anchored link a proper noun should go to that place. The
>> Washington Post disagrees. Someone there, (cerntainly no one on this
>> list),
>> probably some horned sulfurous smelling marketing troll decided that a
>> link
>> should be something different.
>>
>> I was reading this article "*Take Time to Rewind at the Hirshhorn's
>> 'Realisms" *here: http://tinyurl.com/5z2qvx -- and decided that I really
>> wanted more information, and to get down to the Hirshhorn and check out
>> the
>> exhibit. Right there in the middle of the article is Hirschhorn Museum,
>> underlined, as if it was a hyperlink. I thought to myself, "Self - if I
>> click this I will go to the Hirshhorn Museum website and see
>> when/where/how
>> what about this so I can catch it this weekend."
>>
>> The link did not go to the Hirschhorn Museum website.
>>
>> It submits a search to the WP website querying all related articles
>> matching
>> the the string Hirshorn Museum. From the results page there is no way to
>> get
>> info about the actual museum, it's website URL, or even a profile on the
>> museum. Guess what? I didn't want to search for related items to
>> Hirschorn
>> on the WP website. If I wanted to do a search, I would enter it into a
>> search box and click search. When I see a hyperlinked proper noun - it
>> sure
>> as hirshorn better take me somewhere I expect.
>>
>> Thoughts? Any other examples of "links behaving badly?" "links gone wild?"
>>
>> --
>> ~ will
>>
>> "Where you innovate, how you innovate,
>> and what you innovate are design problems"
>>
>>
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Will Evans | User Experience Architect
>> tel +1.617.281.1281 | will at semanticfoundry.com
>> twitter: https://twitter.com/semanticwill
>>
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

13 Jul 2008 - 11:19am
Jeff Howard
2004

The New York Times behaves in the same way. Here's a recent story
about the US Congress using Twitter:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/13/washington/13cong.html

The words YouTube and Facebook link to NY Times topic pages about
those terms. An exception to this policy seems to be URLs mentioned
as URLs. House.gov for instance links to just that.

Here's my hypothesis for this behavior. News articles are written
for print and paper newspapers don't have hyperlinks. Articles are
later translated for the web, so if you see a link in an article you
can assume that it's been added after the fact.

But adding a link isn't a benign act. It's entirely possible to
editorialize, as we've seen in the past with Googlebombing. So how
can an editor add some context to the article without slanting it in
ways the author didn't intend? The Post's and the Times' solution
does just that.

Otherwise, who's the gatekeeper for what qualifies as the "One True
Link" for a topic? The NYTimes article I linked mentions Nancy
Pelosi. There are several reasonable external links for that proper
noun. You could link to the official site for the Speaker of the
House. You could link to Ms. Pelosi's personal page on her house.gov
site, or directly to her biography. You could link to her Gavel
weblog. Depending on the venue you could even link to her Wikipedia
article, or her Myspace page.

The Times' solution is actually pretty nice; they link to everything
and they're better able to manage linkrot. Their topic pages appear
to be curated and are quite a bit more comprehensive than the
Washington Post's automated approach. But they're both essentially
collections of internal and external context.

As long as the Post and the Times aren't maliciously subverting
their readers' trust by linking them to shock sites like Goatse, I
have no problem with how their hyperlinks behave.

// jeff

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13 Jul 2008 - 1:00pm
Anonymous

I will call you old school.

I totally get what you're getting at. I really do. I like the idea
that if a noun acts as a hyperlink, it should lead to the actual
object that it describes.

However, this has always been contextual, and as far as I can see,
will always be contextual. You're looking for a single object, but
that can be different things in different contexts.

A simple example: on Yahoo, if I click on a category, it will bring
me to a more detailed search of all things within that category
(until a certain point of course).

If within wikipedia though, I click on a hyperlink within an article
it will go to an article of that object within wikipedia. (check the
bottom of a wikipedia article however, and you will find hyperlinks
to out-of-context locations, but they are clearly marked and labelled
to GIVE them context).

Naturally, within the wikipedia scenario, we have the context of the
"Wikipedia Experience". Users using wikipedia expect the hyperlinks
to do a certain thing because they understand the context they are
within. People using Yahoo expect the hyperlinks to act a certain way
because they understand the context they are within.

Hmm I hope I'm being clear here. Basically, what I'm trying to
express is that within a certain environment, hyperlinks... even
links in general, do different things. I feel like I could go really
deep with this.

It all comes down to the nature of the click of a mouse-button. Your
question "When is a hyperlink NOT?". That's actually a tough
question I think.

We could limit the scope of context to that within a web-browser or
even within a web-site. But that does nothing, because we are still
dealing with mouse-clicks. And mouse-clicks, surely, have always been
contextual. The only universal thing that is expected from any obvious
clickable object being clicked on, is that SOMETHING will happen. What
that is... is a matter of intuition.

And this is where us designers come into play. A primary goal of ours
is (or should be) to understand what is INTUITIVE. And moreso, make
the things that are being used, intuitive.

I do agree that the Washington Post and others alike that use a
similar hyperlinking strategy are a bit off the mark usability wise.
Is it intuitive?

In fact I think the question should be: "When is a hyperlink NOT
intuitive?"

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14 Jul 2008 - 6:03am
SemanticWill
2007

On Sun, Jul 13, 2008 at 2:00 PM, Arjun Mehta <amehta at arjunmehta.net> wrote:

> I will call you old school.
>
> I totally get what you're getting at. I really do. I like the idea
> that if a noun acts as a hyperlink, it should lead to the actual
> object that it describes.
>
> However, this has always been contextual, and as far as I can see,
> will always be contextual. You're looking for a single object, but
> that can be different things in different contexts.

Um.... a contextual link is a very specific thing.

>
>
> A simple example: on Yahoo, if I click on a category, it will bring
> me to a more detailed search of all things within that category
> (until a certain point of course).

That is not a contextual link, it's a local navigation link, so of course
the implication is that it will send you to a page with all things within
that category.

>
> If within wikipedia though, I click on a hyperlink within an article
> it will go to an article of that object within wikipedia. (check the
> bottom of a wikipedia article however, and you will find hyperlinks
> to out-of-context locations, but they are clearly marked and labelled
> to GIVE them context).

Yes. Contextual links within a wikipedia article take you to an article page
about the noun you just clicked on - but this is different than what the
Post is doing.

The problem was that if the link in the Post article behaved like Wikipedia
- there would not have been a problem - if I was taken to a profile page
about the Hirshorn Museum that had basic info like Website, contact, profile
- as well as -- links to all relevant Post articles about the museum - but
that is not what the link did - it submitted a query, presented results.
Here is the edge case where this is bad: I came across a number of times in
other Post articles where the hyperlink submitted a search for all relavant
articles about the hyperlinked anchor noun - and came up with 0 results. Not
only did I expect it to take me somewhere - don't link to -0- results --
that's just bad.

>
> Naturally, within the wikipedia scenario, we have the context of the
> "Wikipedia Experience". Users using wikipedia expect the hyperlinks
> to do a certain thing because they understand the context they are
> within. People using Yahoo expect the hyperlinks to act a certain way
> because they understand the context they are within.
>
> Hmm I hope I'm being clear here. Basically, what I'm trying to
> express is that within a certain environment, hyperlinks... even
> links in general, do different things. I feel like I could go really
> deep with this.
>
> It all comes down to the nature of the click of a mouse-button. Your
> question "When is a hyperlink NOT?". That's actually a tough
> question I think.
>
> We could limit the scope of context to that within a web-browser or
> even within a web-site. But that does nothing, because we are still
> dealing with mouse-clicks. And mouse-clicks, surely, have always been
> contextual. The only universal thing that is expected from any obvious
> clickable object being clicked on, is that SOMETHING will happen. What
> that is... is a matter of intuition.
>
> And this is where us designers come into play. A primary goal of ours
> is (or should be) to understand what is INTUITIVE. And moreso, make
> the things that are being used, intuitive.
>
> I do agree that the Washington Post and others alike that use a
> similar hyperlinking strategy are a bit off the mark usability wise.
> Is it intuitive?
>
> In fact I think the question should be: "When is a hyperlink NOT
> intuitive?"
>
>

14 Jul 2008 - 9:34am
Anonymous

Hi there WIll,

I understand how you might have been able to label what I was saying
about hyperlinks being contextual as "contextual links". But this
is not what I was referring to.

I understand there are certain things called "contextual links".
But my point is that all links are contextual. If they're placed
within a menu/navigation that doesn't make them any less contextual,
though I do understand that traditionally (old school! hah) these are
referred as "non-contextual links".

I hope you weren't offended by the whole "old school" thing, I was
just accepting the invite! ;)

By "contextual", what I actually mean is that links behave
differently in different environmental contexts. And those contexts
can be learnt (though they shouldn't need to be learnt). Users of
the Washington Post website will eventually learn that within the
given context of the Post's website, hyperlinks will act a certain
way (ie lead to that page you dislike). This doesn't make them NOT a
hyperlink. It makes them a non-intuitive hyperlink, because it's a
new model in an unknown context. Until they learn the model, and
learn the context the links are not intuitive.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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14 Jul 2008 - 9:57am
Anonymous

I should also say that I find it very valuable to distinguish
"contextual links" from "non-contextual links".

It's interesting. Maybe another question is: how much can you change
the behaviour of a "contextual link" before you start confusing
people? (Re. When is a hyperlink NOT?)

I guess anyone can feel "old school" if things change too much. We
all want things to act the way we are used to them acting.

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14 Jul 2008 - 10:10am
Scott Bower
2006

I have a great "Links Gone Wild" example.

>From 1999 and inspired by the project WordPrefekt 1.0:
http://www.werkplace.com/scottbower/florida/floridaswf.html

Some highlights:
1) Trying to vote for the communist party. The checkbox is effected
by negative gravitation kinetics. I was thinking about submitting a
patent and calling it "The Cursor Forcefield".

1) The checkbox that activates the "User CMYK Shoutgun Input
Modality."

But seriously Will, you get nothing but sympathy on this list. I have
had great success effecting product development for things that upset
me through Get Satisfaction.

Post and Response to Etsy meta-tagging gangs:
http://getsatisfaction.com/etsy/topics/are_etsy_street_teams_really_meta_tagging_gangs

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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14 Jul 2008 - 1:26pm
bekee
2008

apartment therapy's the kitchn did this to me just yesterday!

http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/recipe-review/recipe-variation-edamame-dip-056005

i thought, what a neat guy, that Mark Bittman, so i expected to go to
his blog (or website) when i clicked on his underlined name; instead i
was presented with all the psots the kitchn had tagged with Mark's
name. disappointing.

i ended up just googling him.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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