The web wasn't the first hypertext system created; many systems came before it: Intermedia, Hypergate, Hypercard, and Storyspace are just a few. In the early days of hypertext experimentation, developers came up with many different ways to represent links. A short historical sidebar to a HypertextNow article outlines some of the different link representations that were explored. After a comparison of different methods at the Hypertext '87 conference (a full 15 years ago), the consensus was that links should be hidden until users elected to show them. Why? Because the other methods had various issues: they gave links too much emphasis, they wasted screen space, or they looked strange and confusing.
Then Mosaic came along and ignored everything that had been learned -- it showed links as underlined blue text. "A link, even the most minor footnote, sticks out from its surrounding text almost as if it were blinking."
- Seek out existing research and best practices. Learn from the mistakes of others.
- Really think about where you insert links into your text, they can really be disruptive.
- See what else we can learn from early hypertext systems.
- Two Basic Hypertext Presentation Models: note the various link styles and contextual navigation.
- Short History of Hypertext: Starting in 1945!
- Features Missing in 1995 Web Browsers: All are still missing today. Some of these like fat links, are fascinating.
- Navigation Features in Netscape 1.1: Sadly, we haven't added much to this list since 1995.