Friday, December 08, 2006

Taking a sneak peak is a Snap

Honestly, I've always thought site previews were kind of annoying, but I'm trying to figure out how we can balance the need of external links with the desire of keeping people on our site.

Anyhow, I've been reading Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity (found it on my desk the first day and took it as a hint) and though the book was published in 2000, I'm finding it extremely relevant to our work in 2006.

I've basically been working under the assumption that you never want to send people off your sight. And I've been banging that drum internally too since we have LOTS of external links. But I'm coming around to the idea (Nielsen wrote about this in 2000, before there was web 2.0 too) of letting go of controlling the user experience. Though I've never thought of it that way, Nielsen points out that users get more annoyed by the fact your site is potentially holding back on information. And in the end, the trust we work so hard to obtain online is skating on thin ice.

But don't get me wrong, a list of non-relevant external links is indeed annoying, but where do we draw the line with providing useful information while ensuring a long, fruitful trip on our site?

My response as of late has been to link to www???.com if it highlights our work, references our effort, or supports our cause, but definitely no more pages of just outside links (see the recently completed content inventory). Hate to be the link grinch, and I want to play nice, but I'd like to avoid a page's only option is to leave the site.

When we do link externally, I'd like to have a description of why we're linking...meaning, how will the user experience be benefited by visiting this site. Additionally, I'm testing out on this blog how we can also use Snap for a snapshot of where we intend to send the user.

It's 2006 and Nielsen's book was published in 2000, and that's light years ago in web-speak, but are external links a no-no today? Or given the web 2.0 perspective, are we potentially holding back relevant information that in essence attempts to control our users?

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