The BBC has released the results of its experiment with in-text links, and it seems the corporation is still not sure how to deal with the issue of linking out from its articles.
Having looked at the experiment in action, I’m surprised the BBC had so much positive feedback, though there there were 306 negative out of 1200 comments altogether.
The way the BBC went about linking out during this trial was overcomplicated, and pretty poor for the user experience. Instead of just sending the user to an external site, the links opened a pop up window with a preview of the website.
Click enough links and your screen could eventually look like this:
In some cases, you couldn’t even visit the website if you wanted to; it seemed like the BBC was determined to keep you from leaving its site, while it didn’t link out to a particularly wide selection of external sites.
So what is the BBC going to do next?
According to the blog, the BBC is now going to look again at its links policy, though it does say that:
“In the meantime, we’re talking to Apture to explore whether it’s possible to extend their product to deliver the functionality you liked and to answer your concerns.'”
This seems to suggest that the BBC intends to continue with the popup previews, and that it isn’t considering using plain old text links, which perhaps means that the corporation is reluctant to pass on link juice,
The BBC Trust’s 2008 service review contained this passage, criticising the website’s linking policy:
“Linking to external sites needs to be more effective. We are
disappointed to find that bbc.co.uk’s provision of links to external sites is not
leading to more click-throughs, despite this being identified as a priority in the
“We are asking BBC management to find ways of increasing the
effectiveness of its provision of links and ensuring that bbc.co.uk helps its users
navigate to external sites from all parts of the site.”
What the BBC should do to achieve this is start adding simple text links, and to a wider range of websites than it used during its trial. Most internet users should be familiar with the way links work by now, and this is a less intrusive way of doing it than using pop-up previews.