Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In-page navigation

One of the flaws of having strong viewpoints (see previous posts on writing style guides) is the failure to move on from ideological positions when they should have evolved long ago.

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox on in-page links:
"On the Web, users have a clear mental model for a hypertext link: it should
bring up a new page. Within-page links violate this model and thus cause
confusion. "

I humbly disagree. With the growing complexity of site structures the idea that all links should operate in the same way is simply living in the past.

The key thing here is consistency. If you use across page links use them and display them in the same way. The same for in-page bookmarked links.

The way I split these is to usually have section navigation across the top (or to the side) and have bookmark links in a list at the top of the page (I only use them when a page is longer that a screen length and where content has logical sectioning) under a page header linking down to consistently displayed sub-headings with a back to top to allow users to go back to the list if need be.

This may be similar to Jakob's rider of 'using them for contents'.

The user can quickly understand the structure of the different navigation elements as long as you consistently use links in the same way and provide supporting elements such as clear indication of section/ page breakdown and good use of headers and sub headers.

I think the 'mental model' is somewhat broader than Jakob makes out and the way you use links on your site may be determined by who your users are. I agree that following the basic 'mental model' as suggested by Jakob is good practice but sometimes it needs to be stretched... just as long as you are doing the stretching in a consistent logical way.

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At 1:04 PM, Blogger superk said...

If I'm not mistaking, in-line hyperlinks are used especially for long texts which one wants to keep on one Web page. They serve as some kind of table of contents. Personally it would annoy me very much if a new window (or a new tab, you know that feature IE still doesn't provide but is suppose to integrate for IE7 ;) opened. It isn't the in-line link's purpose to open a new window.

Although Jacob Nielsen has provided many interesting articles concerning Web writing which are still valuable today, I say "ney" on this one. In-line links have been around for years and AFAIK they've always behaved like this.

If Jacob expressed an opinion instead of saying "it's right or it's wrong", there would be less criticism about his work.

IMHO of course :)

My 0.02ยข



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