Designing Web Navigation – Feedback

So far, everyone is commenting on the appearance of DWN: the layout, the font, the images, the scannability, etc. Guess the content reviews come later.

But I did get some feedback on the content recently. In particular, some folks from the University College of London Interaction Centre wrote to O’Reilly.

First, here’s what I wrote in DWN:
“The University College of London Interaction Centre hosts a research project that explores the possibility of making all online text interactive—right down to the individual words. Instead of hypertext, the researchers refer to this as Hyperwords. The basic idea is that when a word is clicked, an option menu appears. You can then conduct a search, link to related documents, define the term, translate it, and so on. As they put it, the goal is to put an ‘end to the tyranny of links.’ This would also mean an end to navigation design.”

And they wrote in an email:
“We are very happy to be included in this book, but Hyperwords in no way tries to end navigation design.

Quite the contrary.

Information management and the work of knowledge workers is to continually refine information and re-present it as usefully as possible. Links are fantastic. But they are even more powerful when augmented by other modes of navigation and information work.”

Not sure how I could have misinterpreted putting an “end to the tyranny of links,” but it looks like I did. I mean, how can links be both a tyranny and fantastic at the same time? I guess it’s a fantastic tyranny.

But, enough quibbling with semantics. The example in the book is part of a hypothetical exploration of what navigation is. To show this, I simply wanted to present other models of getting from one piece of information to another, and Hyperwords inspired a whole new way to do that. And, I mention that web navigation is really a system of multiple means of getting around a body of information. So, I think we’re on the same page there.

Thanks for your comment, UCLIC. I’ll be sure to address this correctly in the future.



About Jim Kalbach

Head of Customer Experience at MURAL


  1. Hi.It’s simple really: Links are great, they make the web happen. However, we need to go beyond this now. Not by getting rid of links, but by also allowing for other modes of interaction. Does that clarify the posiiton a bit?

  2. James Kalbach

    Yeah, it does. And I think that’s really the point of the whole section of that chapter. The Hyperwords example is singled out as a particular mode of interaction, one that’s very different and unique. So looking beyond just the paragraph about Hyperwords we’re on the same page.

  3. Hi,
    here is a quick note: I just stumbled across and they show an implementation of the Hyperwords-idea. When you double-click on a word in the text, a contextual menu opens. So far, you can translate the term and search for it in the t-online portal.

  4. James Kalbach

    Thanks, Steffen. That’s really fascinating. Wondering if anyone gets it and if it actually brings them anything.

    I was working on a project for LexisNexis where we wanted to implement a similar technique. So maybe we’ll start seeing more of this.

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