Monday, April 2, 2007

Deep Linking is Good Linking

Links that go directly to a site's interior pages enhance usability because, unlike generic links, they specifically relate to users' goals. Websites should encourage deep linking and follow three guidelines to support its users.

Supporting Deep-Link Users

A website is like a house with a million entrances: the front door is simply one among many ways to get in. A good website will accommodate visitors who choose alternate routes.
Here are three guidelines for enhancing usability for users who enter your site at interior pages:

Tell users their arrival point, and how they can proceed to other parts of the site by including these three design elements on every single page:
Company name or logo in upper left corner
Direct, one-click link to the homepage
Search (preferably in the upper right corner)

Orient the user relative to the rest of the website. If the site has hierarchical information architecture, a breadcrumb trail is usually the best way to do this. Also, include links to other resources that are directly relevant to the current location. Don't bury the user in links to all site areas or to pages that are unrelated to their current location.

Don't assume that users have followed a drill-down path to arrive at the current page. They may not have seen information that was contained on higher-level pages.

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