URLs: Nouns and verbs
I was hoping to lay off URLs for a while after writing about them for a whole week in which one of my recommendations was to make article URLs as short as possible.
But coincidentally Steve Yelvington has an excellent reminder that some developers go too far, making URLs too simple. “A URI, or URL, should point directly to a resource,” or a piece of content, Yelvington notes. If, in order to uniquely identify the content additional information from cookies, form variables or session variables is required, “it’s broken. The URL isn’t meaningful any more. It can’t be shared.”
Using different terminology, I think Yelvington’s argument is this: All nouns on the Web need to be bookmarkable, although verbs don’t need to be. A listing of airline flights matching my search criteria is a noun that I might want to bookmark — but the page that bills my credit card is a verb that I don’t want to return to. Problems happen when developers think they’re programming a verb but forget that the verb produces a noun. For example, searching is a verb, but the resulting list of results is a noun.
Calling directory assistance is a verb. Once I’m done, though, I get a noun — a phone number. If your Web site makes me call directory assistance (i.e. navigate or search) every time without ever giving me a unique phone number (i.e. URL) I can save to use next time, I’m going to get awfully frustrated.
Luckily, I think most news sites get this principle.