Magazine article Training & Development

12 Tips for Using Hypertext

Magazine article Training & Development

12 Tips for Using Hypertext

Article excerpt

AS WEB AUTHORING software moves quickly toward true WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), it's getting easier for anyone with basic word processing skills to publish a Website.

Although creating a Webpage is similar to producing a paper-based document, there are key differences. Why? Because information on the Web is accessed in a nonlinear way. Most Web users do not read a Website sequentially as they would a book. Instead, it's more typical for a user to jump around reading only selected bits or chunks of text. A second difference is that text is more difficult to read online than on paper.

Here are 12 tips that will help you take advantage of the online medium and work around its limitations.

1. Create a hierarchical list. An outline organizes your content and gives structure to your Website. To create an outline, list all major topics that you want to cover on your site's welcome page. Beneath each topic, list the subtopics that relate to the main topics. Under those, list related sub-subtopics.

2. Create a visual metastructure. Once you have a textual outline of the con tent of your Website, draw a hierarchical organizational chart of your site's content using boxes and lines. Label each box with a topic or subtopic title. A graphic representation of your Website will help you to visualize its structure. You'll be able to see whether you are organizing the site correctly, and whether the structure is logical and easy to understand.

3. Make it modular. Modular organization means that topics cover one subject and subtopics cover one idea. That keeps you from creating topics that are too broad, and it cuts down on incorrect guesswork when a user is searching for information within a site. Modularity also helps keep your topics from becoming too broad, which may make it hard for readers to focus.

4. Make the content modular. You should try to make the content within each topic modular. That means that the information within a topic doesn't assume where a reader has been before accessing the topic, or that a reader is following the hierarchy of your Website. To make your content modular, avoid such transitional phrases as "previously," "in the above section," and "as mentioned in the next paragraph."

5. Chunk the text. Chunking means that you break up information within a topic so that readers don't see a solid block of text. Because text is so much harder to read online, try to keep paragraphs to three sentences or less. By doing that, you will provide your readers with visual breaks.

6. Label topics. Label topics to be as specific and obvious as possible so that readers know exactly what the topic contains. Vague topic titles leave room for interpretation and can frustrate a reader when he or she is trying to locate information.

7. Don't bury information. Usability studies show that only 10 percent of users scroll down a computer screen to see the information below it. It's a good idea to put all critical content and navigation options at or near the top of the page. Where possible, use lists and tables for easy scanning.

Highlight or separate extraneous information, such as tips, warnings, and notes using white space and graphics.

8. Use emphasis sparingly. A busy page is difficult to read and distracting on paper, let alone on a computer screen, so use emphasis techniques judiciously. …

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