Creating a resource list is easy. Making it presentable is not. When confronted with a list of the most interesting links in the world, people still zone out after the first few entries. So how do you make a resource list worth reading?
“What” is apparent from the link title. “Why” is what makes the resource link worth presenting in the first place. “Why” is also what makes a link worthy of consideration. For each resource link, put a sentence with it stating why you personally think the link is worth presenting as a resource reference. Why do you think it’s important? What’s memorable about it?
If you do nothing else to make your resource list approachable, say “why”. People are reading your list because they trust your judgement, help them understand why something is worth their time.
Need more reasons why “why”? How about being able to find things better via search? How about remembering what you thought was great about the resource when you look at it next year? Seriously, if this takes any time at all then it probably isn’t that great a resource. Write a sentence why each resource is worth the time.
Make it look nice
Now that your resource list has been transformed from a boring generic list of links into a personalized, curated, compelling list of awesome resources, it’s time to add some imagery.
Maybe you don’t like this. Maybe you feel people should be able to read a list of awesome resource links painstakingly curated personally by you without needing graphics. Here’s why you want pics with each link:
- Recognition and memory: People find and remember books by their cover. The cover might not have much to do with the content, but it’s helpful. Resource links work the same way.
- Visual separation: A thumbnail image looks way better than a bullet point.
- Light and shiny: Lots of text feels heavy. Pics add bling. Bling is compelling.
In addition to making your resource list easier to read, you are helping keep photographers and graphic design artists employed. Apropos those folks, make sure you have permission to use any graphics you find. If there’s an image you can reference from the resource itself, that’s best.
If either of the previous suggestions looked too hard to bother with, you may as well skip this part and jump right to the conclusion for help.
You’ve probably noticed that even a really nice looking, personalized resource list starts to feel long after a dozen items or so. What to do?
Breaking the list into sublists helps, and works well until you get more than a few items in each section. After that, attention loss starts to kick in, so only the first section gets any actual consideration. You could try a collapsible tree, but then it’s hard to see what resources are available. You can’t hide information into sections and still get an idea of what you are looking at. That’s why search is better than a taxonomy when you start having more resource links.
But what to search for? Here’s where your personal knowledge really helps out: Think about the resource links you are presenting, then categorize them into four major keywords (it’s ok to have a resource link that fits more than one keyword). Now make those keywords into radio buttons people can use to filter your resource links. Nice!
Not only do radio button keywords provide fast and easy access, they also provide an overview of the kinds of resource links you are providing. It’s another way to help people approach what you are showing.
If your simple resource links page suddenly seems more complicated, don’t worry – all of this is already set up for you. Just go to membic.org and create a theme for your reference links. Membic themes support everything described here, and they’re free. Each membic theme can be accessed as its own web page or be embedded into your own site.