Against Web Footnotes

Things that will cause me to reflexively close a browser window #33: poorly-implemented, user-hostile footnotes.

1. Let’s be honest, your 500 word expectoration on the subject of web typography or phone software probably doesn’t need a footnote. Take the time you spent learning how to implement horrible footnote links and spend it actually structuring your writing.

2. We might as well start calling them what they actually are, endnotes, because they always show up at the end of the article.

3. Miniscule supertext hyperlinks. Yes, I know this is what footnotes look like in books. But wait, get ready for this: a web page is not a book. In a book I look at the little superscript number – with my eyes – then look at the same number at the bottom of the page, then look back when I’m done. On your horrible web page, I have to click on the miniscule supertext number, which jumps me to some geographically remote part of the page, sort of like falling into a teleporter in Quake, and I have to get my bearings. Only then can I read the text. Then I get zapped back to the original point, but at some unrecognizably different scroll position. This is like going through at teleporter in Quake, then immediately getting telefragged. Not worth it for your crappy little sentence that should’ve been part of the original text in the first place.

4. It really, really doesn’t have to be this way. What about margin notes? What about hover boxes? What about parentheses? Why do people insist on the pretense of scholarliness by dropping these fetid little numeral-larvae all over their ostensibly valuable prose?

5. Thinking of writing a script or a browser plug-in or something that scans web sites for footnotes, collects them all together in a ball, and launches it into the sun.

Published on Jul 10, 2013