nov 21 2006

Links and how to improve ‘em

Came across this interesting Firefox Add-on called Link Alert.

It works by changing the cursor above “non-regular” links to indicate what will happen if you click it. Thus a link that leads to a word-document, will automagically have a “word”-icon next to the “hand”-icon if you hover over the link.

Although there are some minor issues with this add-on ( changing the options doesn’t take effect until a restart of the browser; There is no way for adding types by the user; What if the website-author already implemented some cursor-changes?; The icons could’ve been better designed …), I still think this massively useful!

In fact, I think this is a kind of behavior that should be implemented as the standard behavior in browsers (of course with an option to turn it off, for those that feel the visual overhead outweighs the usability bonus):

  • As Jacob Nielsen rightfully puts in his latest alertbox, this is an empowerment issue. The users that would benefit the most of this extra information on links (those that don’t really understand the concept of popups, new windows, pdf’s opening …) are not the ones who are going to install Firefox plugins.
  • There were already some very intelligent solutions, implemented on the best of sites to help the users understand what’s going to happen after clicking a link. But these rely on the intelligence and sensibilities of the webdesigner.
  • Add-ons/Plugins are bound to be less memory/performance efficient than a browser-native solution.

So, kudos to Link Alert, but I think this is an easy improvement to include in the next versions of Firefox, Safari, IE & Opera …

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