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, they’ve made them all complete sentences, leading with an active verb. Their jobs page is A client page is 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.


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.

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.)

Chris Shiflett 1:40 PM on 24 Mar 2008

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

(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:

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.

Chris Peterson 2:18 PM on 1 Apr 2008

Is "" clearer than ""? 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?)

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

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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