Using a link is a convenient way to help people find information -- sharing a website, sending an email or downloading a document.
Life would be wonderful if every website had a simple, easy-to-remember address, called a URL -- but they don't. Establishing a unique site name and the software used to construct the site can make for some pretty long addresses that can include a domain, path and file name.
For example, a webpage on About.com with some helpful guidelines on different types of links is http://www.webdesign.about.com/od/beginning tutorials/p/links-on-web sites.htm. Who wants to try to remember that, or copy it by hand?
Let's make it easier to share. First of all, in order to go to the site, you do not need the "http://" -- or for secure transactions, "https://" -- and only very rarely do you need to include the "www" either. (When in doubt, remove it in the address line and reload the page to check.)
This might work well with, say, wordandway.org, but the example URL is still too long. Instead, URL shortener services such as TinyURL.com and bit.ly are available. Paste in the entire name of the site and the service comes up with a permanent shorter name that links to the same page.
If you plug in the same URL at bit.ly, you get http://bit.ly/x9YdOu (and you can trim off the beginning).
TinyURL has the advantage of suggesting a custom alias without your having to sign up for the service. Take the same URL, add your creativity, and you get something that can be remembered: tinyurl.com/LinkIdeas.
Browser bookmarks are another version of links. Make websites you use often just a click away. Bookmarks use the same approach as a smartphone or tablet app that opens Facebook or Angry Birds.
Want to quickly go to The Weather Channel page for your zip code? Navigate there (weather.com), plug in your zip code and then use the menu or right-click somewhere on the site and choose "Bookmark This Page" (Firefox) or "Add to Favorites" (Internet Explorer).
Again, a reminder: If you are linking for website content, you should test your links. Software can vary.
The bookmark/favorite is added to your browser toolbar and can be turned on or off through the View > Toolbar option. Right-clicking on one and choosing "Properties" allows you to abbreviate or eliminate the bookmark name; IE will also let you change the icon. Grouping these into folders will keep them organized.
Websites change over time. A change of address or a page deletion means your alias or bookmarks will no longer work. Several free link-checking services can keep your bookmarks up-to-date. I use AM-Deadlink (aignes.com/deadlink.htm).
You can also subscribe to sites and blogs that update their information. If you want to know more, read a tutorial at tinyurl.com/subcribehow-tos.
Links open possibilities. Documents and PDF files viewed electronically can give you immediate access to sites or downloads. Our family's annual Christmas letter includes several hidden links in the email version, including access to a photo album on Facebook.
And those who use Twitter and Facebook are well aware of the ability to give others quick access to articles, videos and more.
Both people and churches can share more effectively by including websites and email on all communication, designing flyers that can be downloaded, giving access to videos and including more information than can be easily included in a postcard or short message. Why not creatively see how you can punch up your messages?
Ken Satterfield is advertising coordinator for Word&Way.