Hierarchical Hypertext Links

Subject: Hierarchical Hypertext Links
From: "James M.Lockard" <norton -at- MCS -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 1996 15:07:46 -0600

Techwriters,

Sorry for the cryptic subject line. I'm interested in your opinions about
a rather troublesome problem I'm experiencing with an online
documentation project.

The tool I'm using allows the author to create hierarchical hypertext
links called "expansion" links. For the reader, an expansion link is
typically a third-level heading where, if the reader clicks on the
heading, further details are revealed underneath. A second click on the
expanded information rolls back up to the heading.

Like a pop-up link in Winhelp, the expansion link doesn't take you to
another section of the document, it just reveals further detail on the
same "page". I find the links useful because they allow the reader to
see all the third-level heading, for instance, under a particular
second-level heading. It's a nice way to layer the information.

The problem is that readers, by and large, don't find the expansion links
obvious. Now, once they discover or learn how the expansion links work,
they're no longer a problem. I'd just like to avoid the initial
confusion, but I haven't been able to settle typographic signal or symbol
to represent the links as something you can click on.

I need to differentiate between cross-reference links, note links,
expansion links, and "command" links (special links that execute scripts
to do things like open other applications, execute menu commands, or play
multimedia files).

Any suggestions on how to represent expansion links?

The best idea I've had so far is to use the two Wingdingz, circled-arrow
characters like bullets. When the expansion link is folded, the circled
arrow points towards the link text and, when the link is expanded, the
circled arrow points down.

TIA,
James Lockard
norton -at- mcs -dot- net

"I meant what I said, and I said what I meant."
-- Horton the Elephant


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