The Tools Artists Use

How should the tool links work?

Posted on March 10, 2009 | Comments

When I first started this site, I had the vision of how all the interviews would be interlinked and related by the common tools that many artists use. One attempt at that was to link the tool names in the interviews to an archive page where you can see other interviews that featured the same tools. This goes part way towards that goal, but perhaps it's not the best way.

Over the last few days, I have received some thoughtful email from a pair of readers of the site that suggested that the way I was linking those tools was a little counterintuitive. They think that those links would be better if they linked to a product page instead of the tool archive page. For example, "Adobe Photoshop" would link here (Adobe's page) instead of here (the Photoshop tool archive page). And I think they're right! Plus, as they pointed out, at the bottom of each post there is a list of the tools featured, which also link to those archive pages.

Now, I need help deciding the best way to adjust how some of those links will work. For many of the tools, I can find official product pages, or something close enough. But, in the cases where the product is a little more ambiguous, like "watercolor" or "sketchbook," how do you think those links could work? There are a couple of options I think:

  1. For tools with official product pages (like Photoshop), I'll use that link. For the ambiguous tools, I'll do no linking but I could highlight the word in a sentence (like sketchbook), and leave it like that.
  2. For tools with official product pages (like Photoshop), I'll use that link. If no product page can be found, I could find an online store (like Dick Blick, Daniel Smith, or and link to a product page there where at least some information could be found.
  3. Or, in the extreme opposite, I could just not highlight the tools in the interviews in any way at all (no product links, no buying links, no bolding, etc), and just leave the interviews plain. And I could try and include product links in the list of tools featured at the bottom of each post.

I'm leaning more towards option #2, but I really would like to hear what you, the weblog readers, think. Which sounds best to you?

UPDATE 3/21/09:

I truly appreciate everyone's opinion and suggestions and I think the solution I ended up with kind of sits in the middle of all the options I laid out.

Previously, all tool links within the body of an artist interview would take you to the archive page (here on this site) for that tool--showing you any other artist interviews that contain the same tool. It was pointed out, in the comments and via email, that those archive pages are linked in other places so perhaps they aren't needed in the posts. And I still agree with that.

So, here's how I've changed things. In the body of the interviews, the tools will only be linked if there is an "official" site for it (e.g. Adobe's page for Photoshop). If there is no official site, there's no link in the interview. Then, at the bottom of each interview's page, all the tools are linked under the text "Tools mentioned in this post". Clicking on those links will take you to the archive page for that particular tool.

I've also added an "extended" view of the tools. If you click on the "show more detail" link next to "Tools mentioned in this post", it should display an expanded table view of the tools. This expanded view has 1) a link to the tool's archive page, 2) a link to that tool's "official" website (if any), and 3) links where it's possible to buy the tool from either and/or (if available). Go visit the most recent interview, scroll down to the tool links section, and see how it works.

I hope this will work okay for everyone.

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