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Subject:
From:
Avi Soudack <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Avi Soudack <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Tue, 2 Nov 2004 09:07:40 -0500
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I received six responses, several of them quite detailed. Thanks to all for
helpful input....  avi



Short summary followed by more detail. For a quick overview read 1.SUMMARY.



1.  SUMMARY

2. A RECENT STUDY of GLYPHS

3. SIGNALLING AN EXTERNAL LINK

4. GLYPH vs. ICON

5. EXAMPLES OF GLYPHS



+++++

1.  SUMMARY



The consensus among respondents is that no standards or conventions have yet
evolved for use of glyphs. Those that are being experimented with have had
mixed success at best.



A variety of examples of glyphs are in play including glyphs to indicate:

- external site (opening in the same window or in a new one)

- new browser  window (pop-up or new full browser window)

- in-page anchor links

(See below 3. Examples of Glyphs for links to example sites.)



One respondent suggested that there is an emerging convention that off-site
links open in a new browser window, but as yet no convention for how to
signal this behaviour.



There are a few exceptions worth noting. Some types of glyphs seem to work:
e.g. the word "new" beside a link, or the use of file format icons beside
links to non-HTML documents, e.g. PDF. (However, you could argue that these
are not glyphs.)



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2. A RECENT STUDY of GLYPHS



In a recent study (by Susan Farrell):of 10 participants with varying degrees
of Internet experience:



* None of the 10 understood the Yahoo "opens in new window" glyph used by
Yahoo search, including regular users of the site. Most had not tried it.
(Note: On this site the link and the glyph immediately beside it are not
identical. The link refreshes the current window with the link target, the
glyph opens a new window on top of the current window.)



* When the feature was explained, several thought it was a good idea and
several wondered how they were supposed to guess what it did.



+++++

3. SIGNALLING AN EXTERNAL LINK



There is only mixed success in communicating this with or without glyphs.
Possible solutions all raise issues:

* Using a glyph -- No standard yet exists.

* Opening a new window for external links -- Fails because many users are
unaware that this has happened, not realising their original window is in
the background and becoming confused when the back button does not work.

* Using rollover information to clarify icon's purpose --  No information on
usefulness available



In addition:

* There are difficulties determining what is "external" is difficult in some
cases (e.g. is the site/sub-site of a division of a large corporation
"external".

* Solutions can not assume users' have a sophisticated understanding of
window-based GUIs or the Internet.

* Visually impaired users are particularly disoriented by new windows
opening.



+++++
4. GLYPH vs. ICON



Two (related) ways of distinguishing the terms:



* One suggestion that the term icon NOT be used in this context, since that
term is used (in computer systems) to refer to "manipulable component
objects in a graphical programming system".  Instead glyph be used to refer
to image that adds meaning to link.

* Another said that she was accustomed to distinguishing icons and glyphs.
Glyphs were smaller and served as symbols or indicators rather than as
clickable buttons.



+++++

5.  EXAMPLES OF GLYPHS



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine

* Links to external pages are followed by an image consisting of a box with
an arrow pointing up and out of the box. The image is added to the link with
a class.



http://wwwapps.ups.com/WebTracking/processRequest

* UPS.com makes extensive use of glyphs. UPS's new-window icon is one I've
seen fairly often.



http://www.cnn.com/

* cnn - two docs with a red arrow



http://biz.yahoo.com/topic/us-markets/

* yahoo finance - displays "[external]" before the link



http://story.news.yahoo.com/fc?cid=34&tmpl=fc&in=Entertainment&cat=Literature_and_Authors

* yahoo news - uses "at <sitename>" for external and "<sourcename> via Y
News" for internal links



http://www.publix.com/aprons/ApronsMeal.do?mealPK=54&mealGroupPK=2

*a down-arrow to mark internal anchor-links is at Publix website





http://jeffcroft.com/blog/archives/000370.php

* this blog makes good use of external hyperlink icons



*On our intranet, we use some specific tiny icons next to text links,
including:

- Acrobat icon to indicate that a link leads to a pdf (in a new window)

- Word or Excel icon to indicate that a link leads to these file types (in
new window)

- envelope to indicate a mail-to link



END

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