Usable URLs

Discussion articles

  • Generating simple URLs for search engines
    Search engines generally use robot crawlers to locate searchable pages on web sites and intranets. These robots, which use the same requests and responses as web browsers, read pages and follow links on those pages to locate every page on the specified servers. Search engine robots follow standard links with slashes, but not dynamic pages, generated from databases or content management systems using question marks (?) and other command punctuation such as &, %, + and $.

  • How to make URLs user-friendly
    One of the worst elements of the web from a user interface standpoint is the URL. However, if they're short, logical, and self-correcting, URLs can be acceptably usable.

  • The cranky user: making URLs accessible
    Many web pages, especially those created in authoring tools, have a tendency to treat URLs as impenetrable magic cookies. Users benefit when URLs are kept readable and understandable, and when the structure of a URL reflects the structure of the site. Even naive users may be helped by such a design. Here, Peter takes a look at why it's important to make URLs accessible, and offers some strategies for doing this effectively.

  • Towards next generation URLs
    Complex, hard-to-read URLs are often dubbed dirty URLs because they tend to be littered with punctuation and identifiers that are at best irrelevant to the ordinary user. Unfortunately, dirty URLs are common.

  • User-centered URL design
    Despite the universality of URLs, we often forget that they're not just a handy way to address network resources. They're also valuable communication tools. They help orient users in your architecture, and can suggest whether other options are available.

Research articles

  • Serving citizens’ needs: minimising online hurdles to accessing government information (PDF)
    With the rapid spread of the Internet across society, government institutions are taking advantage of digital technology to distribute materials to citizens. Is merely having a website enough, or are there certain usability considerations site creators must keep in mind to assure efficient public access to online materials? This project looked at typical people's ability to locate various types of content online, in particular, their ability to find tax forms on the web. Findings suggest that people look for content in a myriad of ways, and there is considerable variance in how long people take to complete this online task. Users are often confused by the ways in which content is presented to them. In this paper, two common sources of confusion in users' online experiences with locating tax forms online are distinguished: (1) URL confusion and (2) page design layout. Ways are also suggested to decrease these two sources of frustration, yielding less exasperating and more productive user experiences.