Friday, May 06, 2011

Some interesting research on links

In my online wanderings, I came across some interesting research by a University of Maryland prof dealing with the use of links in stories.

Ron Yaros' conclusion is that in complicated explanatory stories, linking to outside sources reduces understanding, but linking within the story to other explanatory elements (such as definitions and illustrations), increases understanding.

In less-complicated stories, the linking so prized by many Web pundits seems to work better.

Will that be controversial among the "do what you do best and link to the rest" folks - of which I am generally a member? I don't know, but it's good to see more work in this area because we really don't have a lot of current research (that I'm aware of) into how people use and perceive links and the various forms they take (some early research suggested sidebar links with little text snippets worked better than in-text links, but that was done at a time when the visual grammar of links was far different and I think is less valid today). We're working on a lot of assumptions that need testing and validation.

Please feel free to point me to other research in this area applicable to journalism. I have a high degree of interest.

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