How to Write Optimized Hypertext™
Why is OH difficult to write? Because it requires
non-linear thinking of people (us)
who have only ever been trained in linear thinking.
To write OH you must retrain yourself to imagine the various ways in which diverse individuals from 210+ countries might choose independently to navigate the body of information and knowledge you present to them on your website. It's not your way of learning that matters, but theirs.
You must rigorously isolate and define concepts in your mind, then create concise, skimmable text objects to hold them, then actively seek and establish links among related concepts, and finally add ancillary navigation mechanisms to assure that users can find their way through the information easily and intuitively.
It's no wonder most web writers just write plain old linear text the way they always have. Learning to think and present ideas in a very different way is a challenge. Many writers are not up to the challenge, or do not see its importance. Others retain copyright to lots of previously-written linear text and feel that it will do just as well on a website as Optimized Hypertext. (Not true!)
Here's how you must think in order to write so that readers can start anywhere, go from there to anywhere else, stop anywhere, and be satisfied with what they've found:
1. Each web page is a "content object" focused on one particular concept, event, topic, or fact set, sufficient to itself. A content object is like a paragraph-and-topic sentence, but may be longer or shorter, so long as it maintains its focus on a single concept. Concepts may be subsets of broader concepts. Examples of concepts: "travel in Turkey," "travel in Istanbul," "hotels in Istanbul," "Istanbul Hilton Hotel," "tennis courts at the Istanbul Hilton." Each of these concepts must have its own page because each is a content object.
2. Each web page has navigation aids to help the reader move to related content objects. "Navigation aids" means more than just navigation top- or side-bars or lists of general links. The links from a page must be well considered and designed to take the reader to logically- related content objects. The optimal position for such links is within the text and at the bottom of the page.
"Back to top" links are usually a monument to poor navigation design. Why would the reader want to return to a place where s/he's already been?
The logical place for onward links is at the bottom of the page, which is where the reader will be when s/he wants to progress to a new page.
3. Each web page must have enough general information to allow the reader to understand where s/he is in the information cloud that is your website. Google and other powerful search engines may bring a reader to any page on your website, so every page must be designed to serve as the "entrance page" to your information cloud.
This means there will be some degree of repetition and duplication of info found on other, related web pages. (Linear analogy: summaries provided at the beginning and end of story episodes in a weekly serial broadcast.)
4. The topic of each page must be evident to the reader within a few seconds of first seeing the page: doctitle, page title, sub-title, subject headings, captions and ALT tags must be brief, trenchant and clearly descriptive, eschewing cuteness, wordplay, etc. This is to allow both human and computer readers to decide if the page is relevant to their search.
5. Each page must have enough relevant links to allow a large and varied readership to pursue the topic that seems most natural in their own personal search for the information and knowledge they're seeking. More...