Link directly to articles. Please.

Written by Adrian Holovaty on October 9, 2002

There's been some talk on the online-news discussion list about the tendency of some news sites to link home-page headlines to intermediary index pages instead of linking directly to the articles. (For example, a headline "Mozilla getting more popular" might link to the general technology page, which contains a link to the story itself.)

A few culprits were singled out:

This practice is a usability nightmare. It forces users to search twice for the story they want to read: Once on the home page itself, and again on the intermediary page.

It's like asking for directions at a gas station and being told, "Drive a mile north, and ask again at the gas station up there." In the words of one online-news list member: "Every time I follow one of these links, I feel cheated."

This isn't only frustrating; it cheapens a site and makes it less credible. From my experience, people are cynical enough to believe this technique is done solely to increase page views. Is this an attitude you'd want your site's users to take?

A Brazilian member of the online-news list reported it's a common practice in Brazil:

The usual method is: A teaser in the very home page, a click takes you to a section/sub-site home page, and finally to the final destination. ... One may say that's for the context and to allow the user to see more of what he's interested, but I believe it's just for the audience numbers.

Aha. The audience numbers. Never mind the fact that if you frustrate users enough, they'll stop visiting your site entirely -- which, I might point out, does not bode well for audience numbers.

I advise news sites -- and any other information-based sites -- to stop this practice entirely.

Comments

Posted by anonymous on October 9, 2002, at 4:01 p.m.:

Netscape news does the same thing.

However, I doubt that it is as simple as increasing page views, at least not BLUNT method anyway. The thought is that, if you are interested in the story you clicked on, let's pre-sell other similar stories. Let's get thim into the entire area, so maybe they will see other links of interest.

So the original link was really a nav link. A way to qualify your interests by what you click on.

To trick people into believing a nav link is really a content/article link may look good in the marketing boardroom, but it flunks usability 101 - never promise one thing and deliver another.

Posted by Jay Small on October 9, 2002, at 11:13 p.m.:

OK, so you want to get people to see other articles that might relate to what they clicked to see? Why not provide a bank of links to the most likely suspects alongside the article text?

Believe me, I'm more than familiar with the whole matter of trying to get people to understand a multilevel hierarchy of index pages. You have to do something with one-layer-down indexes eventually to keep from having a zillion blue links on your home page. But the answer isn't to force the next-layer-down index into the workflow of clicking a link to see an article.

Posted by nervoso on October 10, 2002, at 9:02 a.m.:

tudo isso é pelo dinheiro. Isso que gasta a banda.

Posted by Wohleber on October 10, 2002, at 12:10 p.m.:

Salon.com tried the same thing a few years ago and quickly abandoned the experiment. I thought it was a ploy to put more ad banners in front of people.

It's amazing what you can learn from even the most half-assed, unscientific user-testing. Web designers need to spend less time among people with nose piercings and more time among technophobic retirees wearing bifocals. "Mom, what do you think of this?"

Posted by kpaul on October 10, 2002, at 9:36 p.m.:

Jay - Here's a good example of what you're talking about, I think:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/articleshow?artid=24812306

Posted by frustrated on December 29, 2002, at 9:02 p.m.:

Am visually impaired and when I hit an imput area, I do not want all sort of links or ads. They lose me immediately as a person who will use their site.

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