Bad URLs Part 3: Confessions time

Over the last couple of posts I’ve been looking at URLs, good and bad. Now it’s time to examine what we do at Edge Hill and see how we fare!

Most of our website is currently made up of static pages so it looks something like this:

http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/Faculties/Education/index.html

Other areas of the site aren’t quite so great:

http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/Faculties/FAS/English/History/index.html

Not terribly bad but it’s a little bit long – I wouldn’t like to read it out over the phone and because the URL is structured to mirror the department, when names change, the URL could change as well.

The site structure is quite deep which has led to some quite strange locations for pages, for example the copyright page linked to from every page on the site is within the Web Services area of the site:

http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/Sites/ITServices/WebServ/Copyright.htm

For use in publications, there’s a whole bunch of “vanity URLs” like this:

http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/education

And that will redirect you to the page you’re looking for. These are great – easy to read over the phone or type in but since most of them force redirect to the actual page, most people don’t know about them – if you copy and paste into a document you’re producing, you’ll get the long URL. But they’re also not universal – short URLs exist for some departments and services but not others and sometimes it can be hard to pick a good vanity URL.

When we look at some of our dynamic content however, things aren’t quite so great.

http://info.edgehill.ac.uk/EHU_news/article.asp?id=4786

What’s wrong with this?

  • Mystery “info” server – splitting page rankings on Google
  • Tell the user what language we’re using for the page (ASP)
  • Meaningless ID numbers
  • EHU_news – why not just news?
  • Nothing that search engines can pick up on for keywords

The first site I worked on for Edge Hill – Education Partnership – is a bit of a mixed bag:

https://go.edgehill.ac.uk/ep/static/primary-mentors

It’s fairly readable with words describing the pages rather than ID numbers, but it’s hosted as part of the GO website despite being in the main website template. There’s also the “static” in there which is a by-product of the implementation rather than being an relevant to the URL. I’ve learnt my lesson and it won’t happen again.

Overall I think we score 5/10 – no nightmare URLs but lots of scope for improvement and next time I’ll be looking at some of the plans to change how our sites are structured and maybe get a little technical about how we’re implementing it!

2 thoughts on “Bad URLs Part 3: Confessions time

  1. Hi Mike

    I have found your url blogs very useful/interesting – particularly part 3. The urls for Learning Services pages are very long and cumbersome. Alison did tell me I could still use ls i.e. http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/ls after I found that some urls did not fit on one line of printed guides. However I know that LS staff still use the full address by copying and pasting the url at the top of the page. How can we find out/obtain/disseminate vanity urls? Or will this be in the future when we change how our sites are structured?

    Maureen

  2. Hi Maureen,

    At the moment, for learning services anything after edgehill.ac.uk/ls/ gets translated to /Sites/LearnServ/

    I don’t want to spoil the surprise for part 4, published at 9am on Monday (!!) but I’d like to move all the sites to a top level address. We obviously need to ensure that every department/service has a unique address, but I’d suggest /ls might be suitable for Learning Services – have a chat with colleagues and we’ll discuss before we make any changes.

    Mike

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