- URL’s are not just clicked, but understood.
- Most users need simplicity to know their path ahead.
- Trust is built when details are closely monitored.
- Abbreviations are not recognized universally. But ironically, not all of us know what “URL” stands for.
Two types of URL’s come to mind:
- Shortcuts that you would like people to remember e.g. www.bbc.com/weather or art.ebay.co.uk
- URL’s that can be extrapolated e.g. if I know that all usability definitions are stored as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usability, I can find Interaction at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interaction
The first pointer is much simpler to achieve. It is a simple configuration on the server which tells the server where to go when someone asks for, let’s say, www.url.com/abc. The latter is tricky. The factors that hinder this are:
- Nobody captured it as a requirement.
- A technical limitation e.g. the Content Management Server does not allow such a URL e.g. http://www.postoffice.co.uk/portal/po/jump1?catId=19300207&mediaId=26800661
- It’s an application that does not follow logical structures e.g. you should not/ can’t reach the page 3 of a checkout process.
- The structure of the application mimics the directories in which different solutions are compiled. And hence, you see things like MCMSWebApp or http://viv.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?EbayTime in the URL – something that can be completely avoided on day 1, but is an expensive change later.
- Information can be accessible from multiple paths and can sit in multiple categories. Despite all the flak that Microsoft gets, it’s one of the companies whose products (like Content Management Server or SharePoint) emphasize on it. As an example (not the best ones), if you look at Jet Airways www.jetairways.com, all pages reflect the directory structure e.g. http://www.jetairways.com/Cultures/en-US/United+Kingdom/Products+and+Services/In+flight+Services
- Another example includes http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/default.stm
The Bigger Gain
We might not realize the relevance of simplifying URL’s as it just requires clicking. But most users step into it or click on it only once they know what lies ahead. If users don’t understand URL’s, they are not going to tread into it deeper. This means that we have lost a prospect or even an existing customer. This just goes to say that the 80/20 rule holds true in this case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle.
Here is an article on this topic: http://uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000240.php