File Links: How to Be Nice to Your Website Visitors

There are some basic concepts of etiquette that we love to promote. That’s how I am trying to re-purpose my irritation after visiting a communication professional’s website and encountering one of my pet peeves!

I practice politeness so I won’t link to the offender; it’s just their bad luck today that I decided to blog about this topic after visiting their site a few minutes ago. They have a lot of company out there on the internet and I don’t believe in singling one person out unfairly. Let it be known however this web site belongs to a “communications professional.” This is a tip for communicating online as a professional.

Here’s the Web Usability Tip from Rox:
When linking to a file on a web page, please append the title of the link with some indication that it is a file and not another web page assigned to that link. Although savvy web surfers can hover over a link and look down to the bottom of the browser window at the status bar to see where a link is pointing, you as the site owner shouldn’t require that of users to have a positive experience on your site.

Instead, simply add a nice friendly note in or immediately after link, indicating what the link is all about. Here are two links that show what I mean:

Hot Stuff at Bare Feet Studios
Bare Feet Webmail Pricing (PDF; 88 KB)

Even nicer, add the file icon graphic:
Download the PDF: Webmail Info & Pricing Sheet to learn more about our professional email service and pricing plans. (88KB)

In the second example, the visitor knows without any effort that the link is to a PDF file, and even nicer, the size of the file so the visitor can decide if s/he wants to take the time to download it. Similarly, if it is a spreadsheet, add (XLS; 55 KB) or if it is a Word doc, you can add (DOC; 23 KB) — adding the correct file sizes if you know them. (Right-click on the file and look for Properties on a PC or Get Info on a Mac to learn the file size.)

Without this nice little note, the unsuspecting visitor clicks on the first link expecting a nice quick jump over to a new web page but instead triggers a completely different and most like more time-consuming process. That creates irritation for many surfers and outright confusion for less-experienced web surfers. Professional web developers will do this automatically. If your web manager doesn’t, be proactive with your web site and check your links. If you edit your site yourself (the ideal situation IMO, then you can take care of this straight away.

You don’t want your site visitors to experience either of those, now do you?

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