The Web Design Group

Style guide for online hypertext

Referring vs copying

When referring to information which is on a server outside your own control, you might be tempted to make a local copy of it. In some cases, this can be a good thing, but there are also good arguments against it.

Reasons for leaving the document where it is:

  1. When the document is updated by its owner, the link automatically refers to the updated information, so there no longer is a need to keep checking the remote site for any changes to the document.
  2. The other server may be on a faster connection than yours, depending on where your readers will be coming from.
  3. Copying a document to your server requires permission from the copyright owner. Referring to it doesn't.

Reasons for making a local copy:

  1. If the information is only temporarily available (a news article, for example), then you have to make a copy. But make sure you do not violate the copyright of the author if you want to make the copy available.
  2. If you want to refer to a particular piece of information, which might be changed, then a copy ensures you will keep that version.
  3. Several documents might each contain information on one aspect of a problem. To combine them, links to the separate documents can be confusing to your readers. Extracting the relevant information and merging it into one document is a better choice.

Hotlists and indices

There already are many collections of "cool" links, indices to RFCs, FAQ lists or information on specific topics. Rather than creating the 1,000th list of links, make a personalized, annotated, list of pointers of specific interest. The best WWW pages are those that have something meaningful to say for themselves.
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Web Design Group
Last updated: 30 Sep 1997
Copyright © 1996 - 2006. Arnoud Engelfriet.