Predictable URL design

Being-predictable-allows-others-to-control-youAs we move to more and more web based applications it is going to be more and more important for developers to really think about how users access their web applications. Individual pages or search options may be more important than the simple landing pages. Particularly if you are wanting to get customers and users to be continually coming back to your site. Often the home page is very much a preamble that is likely to be skipped as quickly as possible so maybe if you have a single purpose site you want to have the search right up at the front on that landing page – alternatively if you have multiple applications essentially combined as part of a domain each search page needs to have a lot of care and attention to allow the user to get to his required information as quickly as possible.

In many cases it is particularly useful to have URLs to which can be passed parameters – I have already talked about my use of Google Maps in this respect but the list of sites that have predictable URLs that can be manipulated objectively with outside non-key referenced attributes reads as a list of the A to Z of some of the best companies on the web.

Examples as follows.

AMAZON
Linlithgow can be swapped out for anything and you can go straight to a list of the books you are interested in. Here’s an example of three different search strings Linlithgow, Quantum Mechanics and Programming.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Linlithgow

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Quantum_Mechanics

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Programming

EBAY
The structure can change which is fine, as long as it is predictable and regular, here swapping two locations of the parameter “television” returns items for sale.
http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xtelevision&_nkw=television&_sacat=0

S1 jobs
Some sites will require links that have some knowledge of the parameters before hand. S1 jobs usually build the search string from a dynamic drop down list.
http://www.s1jobs.com/jobs/aberdeen-aberdeenshire/find?a_or_e=employer&a_or_e=agency&publicsector=publicsector&onlyshowme=datesmart

http://www.s1jobs.com/jobs/edinburgh-and-lothians/find?a_or_e=employer&a_or_e=agency&publicsector=publicsector&onlyshowme=datesmart

In such circumstances a developer will be able to directly link by noting the parameters and making the same parameters available within their application that builds the link url. (example parameters include fife / edinburgh-and-lothians/ inverness /glasgow-dunbartonshire )

Train Line
Most search filters are time specific a good design default is to assume that the user is looking for current information.

http://www.thetrainline.com/live/departures/edinburgh-to-london-kings-cross

http://www.thetrainline.com/live/departures/london-kings-cross-to-edinburgh

Sky Scanner
Certain applications actively require dates – no problem.
http://www.skyscanner.net/transport/flights/edi/mosc/150101/150102/airfares-from-edinburgh-to-moscow-in-january-2015.html?rtn=1

http://www.skyscanner.net/transport/flights/mosc/edi/150101/140102/airfares-from-moscow-to-edinburgh-in-january-2015.html?rtn=1

Air B n B
Has a really nice implementation that is really easy to manipulate – Brevity in a URL is extremely nice thing to have.
https://www.airbnb.co.uk/s/Edinburgh–United-Kingdom?source=bb

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/s/St-Petersburg–Russia?source=bb

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/s/St-Petersburg–America?source=bb

Compare this with something like www.jobs.co.uk – a nice site which will not accept parameters from outside of it.
www.jobs.co.uk

Unfortunately within the UK public bodies just have not reached this level of complication possibly because they often have a much wider remit. I did a brief search and was unable to find an example although I expect there to be some out there.

Guidelines for E-mails

Not the most exciting of subjects but everyone is involved in communication whether its sorting out lunch with a friend through to organising massive engineering projects. Confusion and misinformation is always an ongoing risk resulting from bad communication which results in individuals either not getting on board with a topic or going off and doing needless work. Today I really rallied against the endless stream of emails I had been cc’d into. I realised that I am probably as guilty as others in doing this so I decided I should figure out some guidelines for tightening up my e-mail etiquette

My guidelines;

1)If you are replying delete generic titles and write a title which is more specific about what is contained in the e-mail. (Try not to use Re: if you have to state Reply )
2)Spend time making and crafting a really relevant reply which is as targeted as possible.
3)If possible delete the train wreck of replied e-mails – most of them are not read by anyone and quite often have all sorts of tags, addresses and generic images which are totally irrelevant.
4)Be economical in cc e-mails if you want to introduce others into a project – write a specific introduction e-mail for that individual explaining everything don’t just copy them into a massive e-mail and expect them to go back through and figure out what is going on.
5)If you have questions that you need answered really start with the question and explain the context.
6)Use pictures – They are useful and e-mails really support pictures very very well now.
7)If you have simple calculations from excel spreadsheets contain them as images in the e-mail attachments are annoying and take time to open up.
8)If you are working with people on a project you really need to have met the people. If they are in your building why not go and introduce yourself?
9)Hey use the phone its there it costs nothing again more important if you don’t know the person.
10)Don’t just write with questions – if you have an outcome that you think is important or you’ve received some positive feedback after project completion let the others on the project know about it.
11)Generally aim to be positive and supportive
12)If you make commitments try to remember them and stick to them.