Monday, 8 March 1999
Where will a link lead you? Will you remain at the same website or will you end up somewhere in Timbuktu (

Software folks like to think in hierarchies. Often their thoughts result into some multiple layer structure. You could categorise the web into several categories, from a large scale to details, like: "The Web", "country", "site", "subject", "page". Here is an example of such a categorisation:
The Web (http://...) > Netherlands sites ( > SUMit logo > Nut's Weekly > Turn

Cute structure, but it doesn't work. Pages link to random other pages. Those links cut right through subjects, move from site to site and from country to country.

Does it matter where a link will go to? Surfing is surfing, isn't it? Well, I am not so sure. The pages on a site are usually coherent. I myself prefer to 'complete' a site before I surf on. After that I make some side steps to other sites, and return every time. I'll just surf a bit back and forth until my information hunger has been satisfied. I'll then leave permanently and surf to a next site.

'complete', 'side step' of 'leave'? There is a difference here.

  • I expect to remain at the same site when 'completing'. More of the same will come, from the same organisation, probably the same author, and mostly in the same style.
  • I expect a page on a different site upon 'side stepping' or 'leaving'. that page will have a different layout, and will belong to another organization.

Let's go back to the question: "Should a link be predictable?" To the Rocks Does it matter whether you stay in the same 'subject', in the same "site", or end up at completely different? Yes it does. I want things to be predictable, but not to the smallest detail.

To me it's similar to visiting a city as a tourist. Every city has it's own style and atmosphere. Small signs direct to several internal attractions. Other signs point out of town, to the highway for example. Those external signs look different.

I'll apply the same distinction for web design:

  1. Internal links within the site, at which you just click.
  2. External links to an other site (.../rocks/...) with a bit of URL in brackets.
Why would external links have brackets? Why no [-> icon (...#Symbolism)? To be continued next week...

Till next week!