Some sites are bad at it. They force the linear structure on the dynamics of the story and that has an effect on the navigation
Take the Guardian as an example. A story abut ethical pharmaceuticals makes for an interesting, if long, read. But what I had landed on that site through a search for stories about the cost of drugs?
I might find the story interesting but would hope the Guardian could give me stories that are more UK focused. They try to do that in a set of related links at the bottom of the story but two things trip them up.
First the links are not relevant – using their search engine for the word pharmaceuticals got me better ones.
The second is that I have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to see them. The linear construct forces me to read the article or go.
Some sites are better at this. The BBC has gone to great lengths to improve its navigation and the result is a principle that, I think, really works.
In the BBC’s coverage of the same story the content and navigation work to give the user options.
What’s nice about this is that it mirrors the (western) way of reading. We enter from the top-left and read left-to-right, exiting the page at the bottom right when done.
This isn’t a comment on the journalistic quality of the story. Both were readable. But in terms of tapping in to the dynamic depth and range of content that linkage allows the Beeb wins out.
So what should you look for to improve you linkage.
- Take control of your patch – If you are the health reporter then make sure you know everything that’s on the health section of your site. You never know what content might fit togther to make another story.
- Give the user a clear idea of what the article is about – forget cryptic intros and clever headlines. A clear lead will let the user make a decision of *‘read or no read’
- Give them clear exit points but keep them in the building – If it’s a no read then don’t let them get away. Point them to similar stories or sections that might relate. In the example above the Beeb points to the Health section. The Guardian points people to the special health feature section.
- Make your related links really related – Spend a bit of time with your own sites search engine when researching a story