Today I noticed that Ask ET (Edward Tufte’s forum) displays related articles in a very unique way.

People normally use tags to link related posts. If Ask ET used tags in a typical way, a post would look like this:

Mockup of a post with tags

When you clicked on a tag, you might see a page like this:

Mockup of an index of articles matching a tag

This conventional method technically gives you access to the related articles. However there is a problem. You have to click the tag to discover what’s behind it. The Interface design tag in the first screenshot leaves a lot to the imagination. How do you know it’s worth clicking through to a whole ‘nother screen based on that two-word link? Most people wouldn’t bother, and they’d be missing out on good content.

Ask ET uses a totally different approach. Instead of linking to pages for each tag, it simply shows the tagged articles inline. No separate screens. No navigation. It’s a beautifully simple solution.

Click the image to see the actual design full-size:

Ask ET's actual design

I love how this layout removes a navigation step and puts the focus on the content. The list of related articles encourages you to wander through the site, like getting lost in Wikipedia. Individual article titles catch your eye. Just by passing over the list on your way to the article you might discover the Interface Hall of Fame/Shame or an article about email communication in the White House.

Sometimes we think we’ve got it all figured out as our websites settle into repeating the same patterns again and again. It’s great to see a fresh takes on a supposedly “solved” problem like how to link related articles.