To answer the implied question "Why would a respected source of usability advice do something convention-breaking like that?", the answer is in the source code.
It's not something a human did by adding spaces, it's something their site's CMS does indiscriminately to every inline element on the page (not just links and bolding / italics), because of the way it formats its code.
If you know HTML, this gives it away (if you don't, there's a plain English explanation below):
Text-only ads might have one durable advantage: because they're a
<a class="old" href="/articles/low-end-media-for-user-empowerment" title="Alertbox April 2003: Low-End Media for User Empowerment">
low-end media format
, users might take them more seriously. Being forced to express a message in a few words concentrates the advertiser's mind, and probably leads to more communicative ads that are better
focused on explaining how users will benefit
from the product or service.
If you don't know HTML and that means nothing to you:
- There aren't actually any spaces after the links or bold or italic/em text. No human hit the space bar or added an extra space after adding a link or bold or italic/em formatting.
- Spaces appear because something in their system is formatting the code in a way which puts every HTML element on a separate line - even inline ones like links and
<strong> (bold) tags.
- HTML parsers like web browsers turn line breaks into spaces.
So, it's their CMS indiscriminately adding spaces to every inline HTML element, not an unconventional editor purposefully targeting links and emphasis.
Also, there are
<p> </p> dummy paragraphs. This is a really clumsy way of increasing the spacing between two paragraphs - literally the equivalent of hitting 'Return' twice (and might actually be the result of someone doing just that in a wysiwyg editor). It's unsemantic and offers no control at all on how wide such spaces will be - any attempt to widen or narrow these breaks will widen or narrow every paragraph.
It jumps out as a hallmark of an organisation where there's something of a lack of control of their web publishing, or an organisational disconnect between the needs of the writers and editors, and the features and styles created by the designers and developers.
Normally, you'd expect them to use something like
<hr class="wide-break" /> which is semantic, follows web standards as the correct way to "transition to another topic within a section", and allows complete control as to how wide this type of space will be.