To scroll or not to scroll, that is the question? (inline links)

Subject: To scroll or not to scroll, that is the question? (inline links)
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2001 08:36:45 -0500

Pam Mandel's standards book <<... says to put links in line. But there are
these big fat topics with text like "In the Complex Editing Window, you can
add, subtract, multiply, or divide your whachamathings." So you'd have a
link each under add, subtract, multiply, and divide. That's a lotta in line

With any style guide, you should always try to understand _why_ they've made
a recommendation before you try to apply it; sometimes the recommendations
simply make no sense and are being done "because that's the way it's always
been done". But sometimes, as in this case, the principle is good but the
advice is unclearly written so you're not sure about why they made the
recommendation. Putting all links inline makes a big--and probably
indefensible--assumption: that readers will indeed read the entire document.
Many won't, since Web browsers are reputed to have short attention spans,
and--like readers of any other manuals--are more likely to skim than to read
something in its entirety. That being the case, what's the good aspect of
the principle? The goal is to not make readers scroll to reach the links:
let them engage in immediate gratification by clicking the link immediately.
Yet there appears to be a contradiction: burying the links in the text
defeats this purpose by forcing readers to read the entire document just to
find the links. Can you reach a compromise? Yup! Use a bulleted list. So
your specific example becomes:

In the Complex Editing Window, you can do the following to your
(With each of the indented items underlined as a link. This solution keeps
the links "inline" in the sense that the reader needn't scroll to find them,
but moves them "out of the line" to facilitate skimming.)

<<But if you put the links at the bottom, you're making the user scroll down
to go looking. And we don't like the links at the top. Nope.>>

Ah, but sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too: place a link at the
top of the page that offers the option of going directly to a list of
cross-references before readers start reading or skimming (or get fed up at
seeing a wall of text and skip to another page). At the bottom of the file,
provide the cross-references. Meanwhile, provide relevant links inline (as
described above) for those who actually do read the whole thing. In fact, if
you're into interface design at all or can blackmail the Web designers into
taking your advice, you can make the "see also" links a standard,
context-sensitive button on each page. I imagine that a Web programmer could
figure out a way to identify the specific cross-references tied to each
paragraph (so that clicking the button would take you to the links for that
paragraph), but you could likely do just as well by providing a single list
of well-organized cross-references for each page as a whole in the form of
an index.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

Develop HTML-Based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 ($100 STC Discount)
**WEST COAST LOCATIONS** San Jose (Mar 1-2), San Francisco (Apr 16-17) or 800-646-9989.

Sponsored by DigiPub Solutions Corp, producers of PDF 2001
Conference East, June 4-5, Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. or toll-free 877/278-2131.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: Textbook writing: don't just blame the authors!
Next by Author: Tools: Typing class?
Previous by Thread: Re: Hyperlinks - Front Page/Dreamweaver
Next by Thread: Tools: Typing class?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads