Linking is the essence of the Web. Web professionals must focus primarily on links, rather than the content or technology.

If you're trained as a content professional then you're trained to think about documents, manuals, articles, brochures. You're focused on sentences and paragraphs.

One of the latest crazes on the web is "curation," which seems to be about assembling your list of favorite links. This, of course, is not new. That's how Yahoo started out in the early Nineties, and Google is essentially a list of links.

Creating new content through linking to and organizing other content is far from being a new human activity. A lot of rap music is about sampling other music and integrating it into a new form. Folk and Blues music is often a pastiche of borrowed lines and melodies.

The Web is a perfect platform for linking and connecting. It is a skill that needs to be developed much more by web professionals because the number one reason websites fail is confusing menus and links.

Jared Spool is touring a talk at the moment called 'The Secret Life of Links'. He makes the point that when it comes to websites everything hinges on the link. Jared also discusses how on many sites there is an inverse relationship between the importance of the link to the customer and the amount of space allocated to it by the organization.

He uses the Walgreens site as an example. There are 5 links on the page that account for 59% of traffic. These 5 links are allocated 3.8% of the homepage. This is quite common. Organizations are forever pushing stuff that customers don't want. Most organizational homepages are a mixture of brochure and highway billboard design.

Learning Opportunities

I was recently looking at the Vodafone Ireland support site. It's getting better but there is still room for improvement. For example, when I go to the Apple 4S support section, it tells me: "View guides and download manuals specifically for your phone." For starters, I don't want to view "guides or download manuals". I want to solve a problem. And assuming I will find the answer to my problem in these guides and manuals, I don't want to read that statement, I want to act.

"View guides and download manuals specifically for your phone" is classic print thinking. Quality web links would say 'Troubleshoot, Install, Configure, Accessories'. At minimum, it should be a link that says "download user manual" rather than telling me I can download the manual and then forcing me to go search for the download link.

Remember: web content should not be a murder mystery.

The invention of links eliminates the need to make statements such as: "On this page you will find information on." We need to delete text that describes the activity ahead and instead present the activity through a link or some other active element. People want to act immediately on the Web. They want to get moving. The mouse is always hovering, hungry to click.