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Re: plain text has its points

From: Alan J. Flavell <flavell@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 7 Dec 1998 18:01:47 +0000 (GMT)
To: Al Gilman <asgilman@access.digex.net>
cc: WAI Guidelines List <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.3.96.981207173134.11967J-100000@a5.ph.gla.ac.uk>
On Mon, 7 Dec 1998, Al Gilman wrote:

> "Click here" is good hypertext usage. 

Some years ago now, I read a rather formative web document
"Style guide for online hypertext":

http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/Overview.html

which contained the very perceptive imperative:

  "Don't mention the mechanics"

http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/NoMechanics.html

 Keeping on the subject of discourse rather than the mechanisms and
 protocols keeps the text shorter, which means people are more likely
 to read it. 
                      
 Even when you are working within the web metaphor, use links, don't
 talk about them. 

with some appropriate examples.  (The web page itself, as it exists
today, could use some attention, but we can attribute that to the
depredations of HTML3.2). Many things have changed in detail since I
first saw that page: the WWW is no longer the preserve of educated
users, or of specialists in a particular field.  But in spite of all
that, I don't see any reason to suppose that _those_ principles have
changed.  The fact that a user is online with a web browser and
viewing my page gives me a prima facie assumption that they know what
a link is for and how to use it (how else did they ever reach my
page?).  "Click here" is demeaning to those who really do click here,
and ludicrous to those who don't. "Good hypertext usage"?  No Sir,
emphatically not.

> This is not because it's bad hypertext usage.  The string "click
> here" may be the single most common value of a link content on
> the web today.

Which is another excellent reason for not using it, by the way.

> "Click here" is artless hypertext, but it fits Cranmer's
> requirement of "language understanded of the people."  It's gonna
> win.  We need to face that.

I don't think it matters whether I agree with that prediction or not. 
If most of the people are doing it, then the only way to compete is to
differentiate oneself, and do the right thing instead.  If everyone
were using topic-related link text, then everyone would be enjoying
the benefits of differentiating themselves, so they could all be
winners.

           "AltaVista found about 5,409,858 Web pages for you. 
                                           Refine your search"

I couldn't have put it better myself!

all the best.
Received on Monday, 7 December 1998 13:01:51 GMT

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