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Stable, unique URLs: Friendly URLs

A friendly, legible, recognisable URL is defined as: a URL that can be remembered, can be accounted for and that makes a logical impression. Compare the following (unfriendly) URL with a friendly version:

An unfriendly URL

A friendly URL

"a usable site requires…

  • easy-to-type URLs
  • URLs that visualise the site structure
  • URLs that are ‘hackable’ to allow users to move to higher levels of information architecture by hacking off the end of the URL".
URL as UI, Jakob Nielsen


Friendly URLs have the following benefits.

  • They show the location of the page within the hierarchy of the website: the visitor can orient him/herself on the site. This improves the informative value of a link. After all, a visitor who follows a link knows where he/she is being sent.
  • They are easy to reproduce. Thanks to that, it’s easier for content managers and web developers to link them.
  • Visitors can remember them more easily.
  • Search spiders have less trouble indexing this type of URL and will even rank them more highly. Indexing URLs with Query Strings, on the other hand, is difficult for search spiders and many therefore hinder the indexation of such links.

Directory structure

Create a legible, expandable directory structure. Concrete, clear naming is important when you set up a structure. In addition, it must be possible to expand the site. The structure is a reflection of the information architecture of the website. See the chapter Information architecture.

Set up a readable, expandable directory structure.

Guideline R-pd.4.7

Dynamic sites and friendly URLs

If you build a website that shows information from a database and dynamically generates URLs, you must set up a legible directory structure. This structure may not be physically present, but it does manifest itself in the URLs. Read more

Web Guidelines version 1.3, November 2007.