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Authoring and Design for the WWW
PRINCIPLES AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS
The uses of hypertext
Some guidelines for hypertexts
Some rules of thumb can be extracted for Web publishers:
Do not link everything that can be linked.
Use links moderately. Consider that all links in the Web
look the same: the user has no way of knowing which links are important, which
Web links do not have types
Web links do not easily allow different kinds of
relationship between the current text and the linked text to be represented
on screen. Web publishers could devise their own ways of, for example,
differentiating links to primary sources from those to secondary sources,
but users would have to learn this local convention, and the publisher
would have to apply it with perfect consistency.
Linking documents means building structures
The structures which are made through hypertext
linking will often be assimilated by the user through exploration, rather
than explicitly presented. These structures may not be comprehensible to
anyone but the author. The author and designer must put themselves in the
user's shoes, if necessary by testing prototypes on real users (see User-centred
Design p69). It may be useful to provide graphical maps of the
structure, and it will probably also help if these maps are themselves a
means of accessing the nodes represented there (see Case Studies p86).
Users forget where they are
The archetypal view in a Web browser, a single
window full of text containing links which on being activated cause the
current text to disappear and be wholly replaced by new text, is inimical to
users' confidence and understanding. Frames, despite their non-standard
nature, offer one way out of this problem by allowing new information to
be brought to the screen (in one frame) while the original material remains
Text is economical to store on computers, swift to
process, and easy to deliver to the user's terminal (even if this terminal is of
the crudest kind). Graphics, sound, animation and filmic imagery (in that
order) are correspondingly more greedy in their storage requirements,
slower to process, and more difficult to deliver to the user.
Text is a powerful medium which can communicate
many different kinds of information, evoke almost any emotion, represent
many different kinds of structures, concepts and qualities. In addition,
within the confines of our HEI's interests and activities, we probably want
to actively encourage our students to use text (whether as writers or
readers) in sophisticated, thoughtful ways. We should therefore be wary of
succumbing needlessly to the temptation to use other media gratuitously
(and expensively) where text would be perfectly adequate.
New forms should be explored
While we have urged caution, there is also scope for
experiment. Hypertext readers, through the medium of the Web, are daily
becoming more confident and sophisticated. New structures and ways of
writing should be developed, so that the Web can find its own voice, or
more probably voices.
Virtual Environments Visualisation