Active URLs

Sunday 23 March 2008

OmniTI has a new site design, and they’ve done something unusual with their URLs. Rather than have them be primarily noun clauses, as in www.example.com/about/jobs, they’ve made them all complete sentences, leading with an active verb. Their jobs page is omniti.com/is/hiring. A client page is omniti.com/helps/ning. The usual Services section is rendered as does, the blog is thinks, and news archive is remembers.

At first I thought it was a cute gimmick, but maybe it’s deeper than that? Maybe it’s an attempt to make the site design be pervasively about the real problem at hand: talking about the company, and what it does. Rather than have the URLs be about a pile of web pages, they are about the company. Interesting.

Comments

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Giacomo 5:41 AM on 24 Mar 2008

That's about the only interesting aspect of their site. I don't know what they're using to scale/optimise images, but (at least on my 72dpi Linux laptop) their logo and thumbnails are ugly and pixelated. For a bunch of webdev, this sure looks bad.

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Robert Kieffer 11:40 AM on 24 Mar 2008

Hmm, interesting approach. It raises quite a few questions...

What does using verbs as the top level of your URLs do to the taxonomy of your content?
Does this help/hinder screen readers?
How does this impact internationalization?

At the end of the day, I'm inclined to just chalk this up as a cute gimmick. Somehow I'm pretty sure that this scheme breaks down pretty quickly. I can just see the marketing weenies all gathered around arguing over what the best verb is for the corporate bios. "founded/by/", no wait, how about "employs", urr... "is/managed/by".

... and all the engineers in the room just tapping their legs, bleeding out of their eyes waiting for someone to just. make. a. frickin'. decision. :)


(@giacomo: thumbnails look fine to me.)

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Chris Shiflett 1:40 PM on 24 Mar 2008

Thanks for writing about this, Ned. I provide a little more background here:

http://shiflett.org/blog/2008/mar/urls-can-be-beautiful

(Due to some recent server issues, this URL takes forever to load. Apologies in advance. I hope to resolve this situation soon.)

Robert, I don't think of myself as a marketing weenie. :-) I do take information architecture seriously, and this approach is simply a reflection of rigor. These sentences aren't arbitrary; they fit into a deliberate hierarchy.

It's certainly not for everyone. A valid criticism is that the approach doesn't scale, but our web site is not that large. There are only a few cases where elegance had to be sacrificed for hierarchical purity, such as:

http://omniti.com/is/hiring/with-benefits

I'd prefer to list the benefits on an existing page, but I was taking other opinions into account, and this is one example where I relaxed my standards. Regardless, it's a valid sentence, and it fits correctly into the hierarchy, so it only lacks elegance.

Thanks for noticing.

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Chris Peterson 2:18 PM on 1 Apr 2008

Is "omniti.com/is/hiring" clearer than "omniti.com/jobs"? I don't think so. If the home page's links are labeled "about", "work", and "planet", why would they link to /is, /does, and /thinks respectively? That the link labels differ from the URLs is a clue that the URLs are not clear.

WWJND? (What Would Jakob Nielsen Do?)

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marty 6:17 AM on 6 Apr 2008

@giacomo -- i wonder if what you're seeing is a result of the elastic layout - everything is set to scale by ems

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Ryan Donohue 12:50 AM on 9 Apr 2008

URLs as complete sentences is an interesting idea - thanks for picking up on this Ned!

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