Navigation Links: Types and Usage

In the previous article “Navigation Links: Introduction”, we discussed typical mistakes that Information Developers make when creating navigation links and established some guidelines on how to use navigation links correctly to make the content more concise, accurate, and scannable for users.

In this article, we are going to discuss the most common types of navigation links, their usage, as well as tips and tricks on how to use them correctly.

Various InfoDevs divide navigation links into different types, and various writing tools name their links differently. Some tools are limited in the variety of navigation links they provide, while others provide a whole set of navigation links, beyond those that are discussed in this article.

Golden rule to rememberthe type of a navigation link depends on the type of audience you write for, the type of information you present, and the type of writing tool you use.

Hyperlinks

A hyperlink is one of the most common types of navigation links that allows navigating through pages and websites. Hyperlinks can point to text, graphics, webpages on the Internet, websites, files, audio, email addresses, and other locations. Hyperlinks can be subdivided into the following types:

  • Text hyperlink – Applied to text (a word or phrase).
  • Image hyperlink – Applied to an image.
  • Bookmark hyperlink – Applied to a particular piece of text or subheading on the same page or in the same document. This hyperlink requires a bookmark or an anchor tag with the “name” attribute.
  • Email hyperlink (also known as a “mailto” link) – Applied to an email address. Allows users to send emails to the specified email address by opening their default email programs (for example, MS Outlook).

Tips: Email hyperlinks do not always work well in all browser/email programs.

Cross-References

A navigation link that allows referencing text from one location (topic, file, or document) to another location (topic, file, or document). You can create cross-references to items such as numbered items, headings, bookmarks, footnotes, endnotes, captions, figures, tables, and other.

Use cross-references to direct users to related information that might add to their understanding of a concept, or to information that is not essential to complete a procedure or task. Cross-references might be used in the following ways:

  • Blind cross-reference – Cross-reference without explanatory information about what the topic will discuss and why a user should follow the link. If possible, try not to use this type of cross-reference. E.g. See, “Working With Folders“.
  • Cross-reference to visuals – Cross-reference to a screenshot, graphics, table, or other form of art. Always provide titles, numbers, or other distinctive names to art and tables.
  • Marginal cross-reference – Cross-reference that appears in the margin of a document and directs a user to additional information without interrupting the flow of the main text. This cross-reference can include graphics with a heading and the cross-reference.
  • Context-sensitive cross-reference – Cross-reference that automatically changes the text in the link based on the relationship of the cross-reference and the target location. This cross-reference is used for print-based and EPUB outputs. E.g. For more information about the history of hyperlinks, see “History of Hyperlinks” on page 18.

Tips: Use cross-references for links that point to internal locations (for example, from one topic to another). Do not create cross-references to information that is not within your control (for example, websites). Do not create cross-references to untitled or unordered art or tables unless the art or table immediately precedes or follows the reference.

Related Topics

A navigation link that provides a user with a list of links to other topics that are related to the current topic and might be useful. This link is usually placed at the end of a topic with a heading “Related topics”, “Related links”, or “See also” and a list of references to related topics.

Tips: When adding related topics, start from the most relevant topics (at the top) to the most general (at the bottom).

E.g. Related topics to the “Deleting Folders” topic.

  • Creating Folders
  • Editing Folders
  • Types of Folders

Concept Links

A navigation link to a group of topics that are related to the current topic. The name for a concept link requires a thorough analysis of the existing content because it will be reused in multiple topics. The concept link is usually placed at the end of a topic with the heading “See also” and a group of conceptually linked topics.

Tips: Associate a concept link with a group of topics, not with individual topics.

E.g. If you have a group of topics like “Creating Folders”, “Editing Folders”, and “Deleting Folders”, you can combine them and create one concept link “Managing Folders”.

Summary

Various writing tools provide different names for navigation links. Don’t get confused! Choose the right type of the navigation link depending on the style and type of content you create and the type of audience you write for.

The list of navigation links that are provided in this article is not exhaustive. You are welcome to add more types of navigation links 🙂

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