Thursday, 24 November 2011

Linking out to the web presence: choosing identifiers

One of the thing we've learnt from linking out to the university website is that URIs need to be short and consistent. At some points in the game, the user is asked to visit an external web page with the relevant URI being displayed not only as a link, but also in a "shortened" form in case they wish to remember the address for future visits. At some points, it was necessary to set up an additional shortened URI if one for the page did not already exist.

Based on this experience, we have developed additional guidelines for "short" URIs that we will be adopting across the whole of the University's web presence. The existing guidelines for short URIs were limited to:
  1. Should avoid ambiguity, e.g. sometimes there's a crossover between "Business School" and "For Business", so URIs containing "business" have to be carefully selected.
  2. They must not contain a year or other date reference, because they effectively go "out of date" and in the case of recurring events, require a new one to be set up each year.

New guidelines for URIs

Future practice will include:
  1. Short URIs must be all lowercase.
    This is because they are case sensitive, and most users assume lowercase as it avoid additional key presses, especially on mobile devices.
  2. No underscores, dashes or other characters.
    When saying the URI out loud, characters such as "dash" have to be pronounced, and many users confuse "dash" with "slash", or even "underscore". An exception may be made if the "running together" of words on the user's part leads to unintentional pronounciation ("Therapist Finder" being a classic example!)
  3. Multiple short URIs to one canonical URI will no longer be approved.
  4. They must not go directly to non-HTML content.
    There must be an "intervening" web page first, in order to prevent "PDF shock".
  5. They must not lead off site, i.e. to somewhere not on
    An exception may be made for linking to the University's official social media accounts.

List of URIs used in the game

Not all of the links from My New Uni are actually shortened URIs, but the complete list is as follows:

URLOwner Accommodation Office Information Services Student Office Student Office Student Office Student Office Student Office Faculty of Arts, Media and Design  Business School Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Technology Faculty of Health Law School Faculty of Sciences Student Office  Information Services Careers Centre Student Office  Student Office  Information Services Information Services  Health, Safety and Environmental Unit Students Union Students Union