URL Sentences

31 May 2010

Two and a half years ago, I was helping Jon Tan redesign a web site. We share an affinity for organization and structure, but we also like to experiment with new ideas.

One morning via Skype, I shared a crazy idea that I wasn't entirely sure of yet, trusting Jon to tell me if it was a bad idea.

What if we make every URL a sentence?

Before he could respond, I pasted in some examples I had been playing with to help clarify what I meant:

These URLs still adhere to a basic — albeit shallow — hierarchy to help keep things organized, but instead of the usual about, work, and clients, I used verbs like is, does, and helps. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Jon liked the idea. He noted some limitations, like the challenge of avoiding awkward wording when the hierarchy was deep, but he thought it was worth trying to map out the entire site to see if we could make it work.

Because the site was fairly small, it turned out well. As I noted previously, this approach isn't appropriate for all sites, but it can give URLs a voice of their own. (I don't use URL sentences on shiflett.org.) It can also help you organize your pages. For example, if a page can't fit neatly into a sentence that starts with example.org is..., then it probably doesn't belong in the about section of the example.org site.

There are other ways to make sentences with URLs, especially if your domain name can be used as a verb. And you don't mind. :-) Using verbs (present tense) as the top-level hierarchy is just one example.

There have been other uses of URL sentences over the years:

I'm really happy to see other people embracing URL sentences and adding their own creativity, personality, and style. If the idea makes sense for a site you're making, please let me know, and I'll add your example as an update or comment to this post.

If making sentences out of your URLs makes you smile or makes your work more fun, you should definitely do it. The best sites are the ones we make while having fun. :-)