About the Author

Chris Shiflett

Hi, I’m Chris: web craftsman, community leader, husband, father, and partner at Fictive Kin.

URLs Can Be Beautiful

OmniTI Web Site

We launched a new web site for OmniTI on Monday, complete with a new identity designed by Jon Tan. As with most projects of this nature, this was all done in our spare time, but we're proud of the results and hope it represents who we are and what we do with a bit of our personality showing through.

If you spend some time on our site, its true beauty might begin to show; every detail has been designed with great care.

A few colleagues and friends have recognized the unique information architecture, particularly the URLs, which makes me very happy. I've mentioned URL vanity in the past, but the URLs we use on the new web site involve a level of rigor that goes beyond what I've done before. Instead of thinking purely in hierarchies, I wanted to also make the URLs powerful statements that stand on their own. The result is that we have URLs like this:


Each major category in the hierarchy is a verb (present tense), and although this is admittedly a little over the top for the most web sites, it can help you refine your information architecture to be more exact. For example, any page that can't be made to elegantly complete a sentence beginning with "OmniTI is" probably belongs somewhere other than the about section of the web site.

This might also be an aid if we begin to do more advertising, because our URLs have a voice of their own:


Our URLs are just a subtle touch, and they're not explicitly called out in any way. For example, links to /is, /does, and /thinks are labeled about, work, and planet, respectively. If other sites can get away with ugly URLs, surely we can get away with having some fun.

As is the case with fashion shows, the point of something like this isn't to suggest that it's a practical style for everyday use. Rather, we hope to make room for more creativity and highlight the beauty of paying attention to details.

Thanks to everyone who noticed. :-)

About this post

URLs Can Be Beautiful was posted on Thu, 13 Mar 2008. If you liked it, follow me on Twitter or share:


1.Ron said:

you're new website looks great.

it's a bit buggy on opera...

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 at 23:59:56 GMT Link

2.Tobias said:

Absolute great idea. I really love it. Will the world be allowed to copy your revolution when it is ready (in about 5 years ;o)?

I don't like the date inside URLs, and I realized that you did not add the month to the URL in the blog (of OmniIT). Do you have any reason for that? How did you solve the issue of unique identifiers?

I've only one thing to argue against: /shares/news has just the feed. So news can be found at two complete different resources, and the one you are using is the feed only. No way to get a HTML file just with the knowledge of the feed URL.

From my point, I like to have the same resource in multiple formats, and a feed is just a different resource. Why not using /remembers.atom as feed and /remembers as HTML list (which currently does not exists, might be nice...)?

...and yes, I'm suffering from URL vanity!

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 at 02:46:34 GMT Link

3.Brian Moon said:

I have always been a big fan of nice URLs too Chris. But, I have not taken it to that extreme...... yet. But you are giving me ideas. =)

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 at 02:59:37 GMT Link

4.Chris Shiflett said:

Thanks for the kind words, Ron. Can you elaborate on what you consider to be Opera bugs? We have some pending changes that will improve the anti-aliasing in Opera, but I'm wondering if you've noticed a bigger issue. If so, I'd really like to fix it. :-)

Tobias, glad you like the URLs. :-) Regarding blogs, the way we chose to handle that is a little bit different. Instead of asking our staff to blog for the company, we instead aggregate each person's individual blog. (We actually moderate this, so only relevant posts are aggregated.) For ordinary blog posts, we only display abstracts, and we link to the full post on the author's blog, located elsewhere. For official OmniTI news, which is close to a corporate blog, we have to take care not to say the same thing twice in the same year. News posts are available via the planet, but the URLs make a subtle reference to the archives, which don't yet exist as they will in practice. Ultimately, we'll have pages like /remembers/2008 to list all of the things we think are relevant to the company for 2008. ("OmniTI remembers 2008.")

Brian, glad to know I'm giving you ideas. :-) If you come up with any creative approaches of your own, please share!

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 at 04:43:16 GMT Link

5.Meraj Khattak said:

I really loved the way you created your URLs. It certainly has opened a new canvas for me to think ... :)

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 at 06:20:50 GMT Link

6.Internet TV said:

That's almost as cool as the whole tld's as words, like del.icio.us or whos.amung.us.

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 at 09:26:56 GMT Link

7.Joseph Crawford said:


The new site looks great, very functional. I love the URL's that is really unique at this point in time but I think everyone will start doing it now that you have lol.

Makes me wish I lived in NY or MD I'd come to work for OmniIT :)

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 at 12:37:22 GMT Link

8.Edward Kay said:

What a novel idea! I think this is great for the examples you mention above.

I'd caution about using it everywhere though, when other options may be more usable. I frequently look at the URLs used and use the drop-down in the address bar to find previous pages I want to revisit.

To me, omniti.com/has/* URLs aren't so good. I'd prefer:

/sitemap to /has

/legal to /has/legal

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 at 12:41:57 GMT Link

9.Geoff said:

it looks great. well done.

I've been getting more into seo lately and I didn't see a robots.txt file with a sitemap reference. you're really doing yourself (and your business) a disservice if you aren't using the sitemap protocol :)

Fri, 14 Mar 2008 at 13:10:52 GMT Link

10.Asanka Dewagw said:

The idea is beautiful and original I must say.. I'll keep that in mind.. probably even use it soon.. I hope you don't mind!

Jon has done a great job with the design. The typography does all the hard work for the site. Brilliant!

Sat, 15 Mar 2008 at 00:47:53 GMT Link

11.Chris Shiflett said:

Geoff, you're right about using the Sitemap protocol. We just needed a few days to catch our breath. :-)

Asanka, I don't mind at all. :-) I'd love it if more people paid attention to details like URLs.

Sat, 15 Mar 2008 at 05:10:41 GMT Link

12.Gap said:


I like the url idea, and really enjoy the website design(OmniIT). I read most of that books, I wish to thanks you guys, that books really helped me to become a better professional on programming and web-tecnologies.

My best regards.

Sat, 15 Mar 2008 at 12:39:11 GMT Link

13.Chris Shiflett said:

Thanks very much, Gap. :-)

Mon, 17 Mar 2008 at 19:20:33 GMT Link

14.Scott Martin said:

Keep up the great work. You never cease to keep me thinking.

Tue, 18 Mar 2008 at 02:56:44 GMT Link

15.Chris Shiflett said:

Thanks a lot, Scott, and thanks for using your OpenID. :-)

Tue, 18 Mar 2008 at 03:01:41 GMT Link

16.Gap said:

Hi Chris.

I have a question, may sound a "dumb" question, but i have to ask you: how do you make this URLs? I mean, are you using the Apache's mod_rewrite or just directories, like '/is', '/does', '/thinks'?

my regards

Wed, 19 Mar 2008 at 23:30:27 GMT Link

17.Chris Shiflett said:

Gap, I use a framework to handle that part, but you can also use ForceType:


This lets you name a PHP file is instead of is.php, and you can access the full path info in PHP via $_SERVER['PATH_INFO'] or use the request URL via $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'].

It would probably take a blog post to fully explain this technique, but hopefully that gets you started. All frameworks support this pretty conveniently, so that might be a better option.

Thu, 20 Mar 2008 at 01:03:14 GMT Link

18.Gap said:


Thanks a lot.

Thu, 20 Mar 2008 at 11:57:22 GMT Link

19.Andrew Woods said:

Nice work on the site. The url structure is creative yet so simple. It is refreshing to see the extra effort made. I'm learning about this myself. It's more challenging than one would think.

I like the Real Genius dialog excerpt on Expressing our Inner Geek page. It's, well ... genius.

Fri, 21 Mar 2008 at 06:19:08 GMT Link

20.Joakim Nygard said:

Hi Chris,

What a wonderful idea! I love how a url is a sentence. Though not appropriate on all sites, it really takes pretty urls to the next level in terms of being even easier to remember - "what was that url again for the job posting...ah yes, they are hiring!" maps elegantly to /is/hiring.

Fri, 21 Mar 2008 at 12:39:02 GMT Link

21.Chris Shiflett said:

Thanks, Andrew, and happy to see you're a Real Genius fan. :-) You're right that it took a lot of effort, but hopefully that's not too apparent. Information architecture is one of those disciplines where doing a good job should result in a finished product that seems simple and obvious.

Joakim, I agree it's not appropriate for all sites, and to be honest, it's not a very scalable idea in general. I do like that the sentences are easy to remember; that was one of the design goals. :-)

Fri, 21 Mar 2008 at 15:10:07 GMT Link

22.Geoffrey said:

Too bad ominiti does not /has/cheezburger ;)

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 at 12:33:48 GMT Link

23.Gabriel Reguly said:

Hi Chris,

Congratulations for this clever technique and its successful implementation, can't wait to do it myself.

As a side comment, if you are familiar with a guy named jon, and I read somewhere that you might be... ;-)

At his blog, I quite enjoyed the javascript link to insert the right answer.

Best Regards

Wed, 09 Apr 2008 at 01:43:28 GMT Link

24.Chris Shiflett said:

Thanks much, Gabriel. If you do something similar yourself, I'd love to hear about it.

Regarding the JavaScript on Jon's site, I think that was actually written by another Jon. I'm a big fan of both. :-)

Thanks again!

Thu, 10 Apr 2008 at 05:01:17 GMT Link

25.Nick said:

Chris, I noticed in the comments you mentioned using a framework for the OmniTI project. I'm curious what framework you used? Is it just an in-house kinda thing or a publically available framework?

Sat, 19 Apr 2008 at 03:46:54 GMT Link

26.Gork said:

I love this URL idea.

reminds me of the backendian thinking when some of the first windows software came out file -> edit -> copy

At the very least using verbs is 'action' thinking

ipdove my rubbish website that needs completely raking out and starting over.

Thu, 07 Oct 2010 at 22:20:38 GMT Link

27.bijou said:

man, i would LOVE to develop/help work on sites like these someday. my question is, did you guys develop this manually (like on notepad) or using (drag-and-drop??) software? thanks! would really like to know what i need to do and help make me not feel so hopeless haha.

Tue, 16 Nov 2010 at 20:30:50 GMT Link

28.bijou said:

i meant, design not develop. when i see websites like these it makes people like me who like to "hard code" via notepad hopeless a little. although after a while it seems doable, but there's that nagging thought that it could have been done much easier, you know?

Wed, 17 Nov 2010 at 05:45:10 GMT Link

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