Building hypertexts: Process

The writer begins by making a list of all the ideas he or she wants to include and writes each of these separately as a component.

Then the writer creates structure. Sometimes the writer creates structure before he or she has finished writing — that is okay. Then the writer writes some more. Revisions in the structure will be necessary, and afterward, some or all components will also need rewriting. Finally, the writer writes the links that instantiate the structure. These tasks typically overlap.

Murray (1997) describes the writer's work as procedural authorship, a process that involves building structure, writing texts, and establishing relationships among the texts. Procedural authorship includes:

  1. Writing components. Once written, components usually require revision as structure develops.
  2. Determining sequences (order) for the article components. The writer decides on possible reading orders for all components.
  3. Building the possible orders into the hypertext with links.

Murray (1997) does not extract linking as a key and separate step, but we identify linking as a significant, distinct part of the process. Component-writing runs parallel to structure-building, and linking runs parallel to these. The writer builds structure with components that stand on their own; components are never merged (as in print) but only linked.

Linking marks a critical difference between authoring a unilinear text and building a hypertext with multiple reading orders. Linking cannot be ignored. Links give hypertexts their flex, enabling readers to follow their preferred paths through articles.

The authors of this article worked according to these steps, and we will be the first to say it: This process is labor intensive. And yet, additive construction over time may give depth and breadth to hypertext structures. There is no reason to consider the "finished" hypertext fixed and unalterable.