How a website has written its links is an excellent way to judge its quality. Good websites tend to have a rich and intuitive link structure. Good web writers think clearly about how each piece of content links up with the rest of the content on the website.I was looking at a website recently which had a Services and Clients section. However, when I read about a particular service, I wasn't linked to information about clients who had used that service, when that information was actually available in the Clients section. Instead, I had to go to the Clients section and scan though a list of client case studies, isolating the case studies that related to the service I was interested in.
I recently had reason to visit the Electrolux website, where I was informed that it "is the world's largest producer of appliances and equipment for kitchen, cleaning and outdoor use."
In the same paragraph I was informed that, "Whether you're looking for share prices, information on Electrolux brands and operations, press releases and more, you're sure to find it here at Electrolux.com."
I was already on the website, so that final sentence was pretty pointless. It was a sentence that must have come from a print brochure. It was a sentence that reflects a lack of understanding of what the Web is about. If I'm looking for share prices, I don't want to read a sentence that talks about whether I'm looking for share prices or not, I want information on share prices, or at least a link to that information.
The State Services Commission is part of the New Zealand government. On the homepage of its website it states: "On this website you will find information about the specific roles and responsibilities of the State Services Commissioner, the work programme of the commission and information about other parts of the government sector." This sentence has no real purpose on a website. Instead it should be a series of links, such as:
"Roles and responsibilities of State Services Commissioner."
What makes the Web the Web is the fact that it is linked. When you go to great websites, such as Amazon.com, you find yourself in an environment that is rich in links that help you quickly gather the information you need, and then act on that information.
Unfortunately, far too many websites are still being used to store print content. This means that they are much less effective.
When you write a piece of web content, you should also write its links. Where does the reader want to go next? Where do you want to reader to go next? Your links should facilitate action.
If I'm reading about a service you provide, then there's a strong chance I'd like to also read about a client case study covering the successful delivery of that service.
Writing for print results in content that is disconnected. When we write for the Web we must think carefully about the links between content, about how we connect the dots. In a network such as the Web, the links can be as important as what is linked to.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.