Earlier today, my attention was drawn to a blog post by Nicholas Carr on the subject of ‘delinkification’. Simply put – he advocates the removal of hyperlinks from the body of online content, opting instead to list all relevant links at the bottom of the piece.
A similar subject was covered within a blog post from content agency Sticky Content, titled ‘Mixed messages make interfaces unintuitive’. Both posts suggest that by placing links within the text, you are presenting the user a difficult choice. Should they click? Should they keep reading? Should they open a new tab? Will they forget to come back if they leave?
Nicholas Carr states in his post, “Even if you don’t click on a link, your eyes notice it, and your frontal cortex has to fire up a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. You may not notice the little extra cognitive load placed on your brain, but it’s there and it matters.”
He’s right – I don’t notice my frontal cortex firing a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. Probably because my brain is busy making thousands of similarly complex decisions every minute of the day.
I’m going to keep this short so as not to labour the point – but I disagree strongly with the theme of his post. Nicholas is an advocate of placing links at the bottom of online content, whereas personally I would find this approach frustrating.
One of the comments he cites says that this approach “shows more respect for the reader – it assumes that we’ve actually thought about what we’ve read”. Again, I have to disagree. If you assume that your readers don’t have the cognitive capacity to make their own decisions about navigating the web, isn’t that a little insulting in itself?
If you’re writing an essay or a long, academic report etc, then by all means include your references at the end. But if you reference something in your blog post or article, then I don’t want to have to a) remember that I want to look up this reference and then b) hope that I find it at the end of your article. In fact, I might go so far as to say that this is more of a cognitive effort than just giving me a hyperlink in the first place.
And hey, if you’re lucky, I might even open a new tab.