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I was reading a blog post today that made me question how often a hyperlink to the same content should appear in a document.

In the post, nearly every reference to HDL (with the exception of one caption) was linked to the same Wikipedia article on HDL. I tend to hover over links as I come across them in documents to see if they provide additional contextual information, or aid in understanding the current document. In this case, I already had opened and skimmed the Wikipedia article when I first came across the link at the start of the document and the repeated linking felt excessive.

I realized thought, that I often do the same thing when creating technical documentation. I do this in case the reader is given a link to a section of a document which uses a term or initialism which might not be widely known, but is explained somewhere else in the document.

Wikipedia seems to take the opposite approach (though this may depend on the author of the article, and I'm unsure if this is something that is enforced). Looking at a few pages there, hyperlinks appear on new terms as they are introduced. If the term is used again in the same context later on in the document, it is in plaintext.

Is there a generally accepted way to approach how often you should link to a document?

  • Personally I try to see if the first link is skipable. Maybe it's in a different section that might be skipped when scanning. If that is true, look if the link is in close vicinity of the other links. Same page view is generally how I look at it. If no similar link is offered in close vicinity I tend to add the link to make sure users can use it. This is for general website texts though. I haven't had the need for technical documents. – TristanSchaaf Dec 20 '17 at 11:03
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In documentation, all links or references are numbered.

Every time the given term (with a link) is encountered, a super-scripted number is used to denote it. On the first occurrence, the word is shown as a hyperlink with the number and after that, only the super-script number has the hyperlink.

These numbers are mentioned at the end in the appendix as references with the URLs corresponding to the numbers.

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