September 7, 2015

Why I abhor “Links” pages

Alternatively titled: Why you should curate recommended external resources.

My my Caleb, that is some pretty strong feelings you have there! What is up with that?

Because I really do hate and detest the “Links” page, that is why.

If you are not familiar with the Links page, i̶t̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶r̶e̶l̶a̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶L̶i̶n̶k̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶T̶h̶e̶ ̶L̶e̶g̶e̶n̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶Z̶e̶l̶d̶a̶ ̶v̶i̶d̶e̶o̶ ̶g̶a̶m̶e̶s simply a page on a website, usually titled Links (but can be known as Partners, Resources, More Info, and a few others names), that has (surprise!) links to other sites and perhaps embedded videos. The links present are selected for any number of reasons: related to the site’s purpose, partners, further information, author’s favorite sites for <insert reason/topic/something>, and the list goes on.

You know that “junk drawer” you have (or had) in your dresser? Things of all shapes and sizes that do not really have a place to go or need to be quickly hidden from sight end up in this drawer. Because the drawer’s content varies wildly, it is not at all organized and only gets messier when you have to go digging through it to find something.

I hate the Links page because it is analogous to the junk drawer. All kinds of things get slapped on it without much thought and only gets bigger. Sure, you may remove a few links at times, just as you “clean out” the junk drawer, but it is never empty. Furthermore, because the page content varies so much, it usually gets the page name in an <h1>, perhaps a paragraph attempting to explain and justify the page’s purpose, and (depending on the amount of content), at least one unordered list containing all the little ones, with any embedded videos after that or scattered around the page.

A real life junk drawer is fine because nobody ever sees inside it (and I will be the first to admit, I have always had and still have one in my dresser), but on the Web, it is not OK. Everyone can see your “junk”, your unorganized, uncategorized, miscellaneous site content you cannot seem to find a proper place for or remove altogether. I have come to view a Links page as a sign of poor content management and planning. The site lacks a clear purpose and motive, so when the author has something they want to add but cannot squeeze it into their (possibly too narrowly defined) other site content, it gets slapped on the Links page as another point in an unordered list.

Now I must clarify: not all Links page are inherently bad. When properly defined, scoped, and styled correctly, they work very well. An example of a good Links page might be a corporate sponsors page with small to medium sized boxes (perhaps all different colors) each containing the sponsor’s logo and name and link to their own website. However, in most instances the page is how I initially described it.

I have long done away with the Links page on this site because of the exact reasons given, and if someone ever wants me to help them with their personal site, I will discourage adding a Links page for the reasons given (did I mention they are hard to properly style?). While it may be tempting to make such a page, in the long run it is much better to avoid it and plan, organize, and categorize your content, because once you create the Links page crutch, it is long, hard road to curated recovery.

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