's column on
URL as UI
David Mediavilla Ezquibela asks:
What is your recommendation for domain names from compound names? This is: what is better:
? I think the first.
The underscore is an illegal character in domain names (but works elsewhere in URLs), so that's an easy choice to reject. Creating compounds by using dots (e.g.,
) only works for a company that owns the primary domain (in this case
which is taken by the Nielsen ratings). And if you have the primary domain, then why make a longer and more complex subdomain for your website? I recommend using the standard "
" as the prefix for websites for many reasons:
people know what it means
some browsers will automatically add "
" if the user doesn't type it
having an address start with "
" is a nice indication that you are talking about a website and not something else (it used to be the case that this goal required the use of a full URL, complete with "
", but these days only very meticulous people bother doing so)
Thus, the three reasonable candidates are:
run the words together:
use an abbreviation:
use a hyphen:
Current mainstream practice on the Web seems to prefer the first choice: simply run the words together to form a new "Internet word" for the domain name. In usability the fact that most other people do something is reason enough to follow along since the most common practice is what users
and thus find easiest to use.
Abbreviations work as an alternative for three or more words or when the result of running two words together would be very long and/or difficult to spell. My main
recommendation is to run the words together if you are dealing with two reasonably short and easy-to-spell words
Hyphens should be avoided because people often forget them, because they can be mistaken for underscores, and because they are rare (and thus a usability problem).
Lose the Useless
Why make it unnecessarily hard for the user? If a homepage is called
why not let that be the URL? Why should the user be forced to type in
when the name of the site actually is useit.com? Hell, some sites don't even respond to their own name.
It seems straight forward, but a lot of developers are so much in love with the useless www-prefix that they cook up illogical and hard to remember addresses like
is a relic, and it's almost never useful. Let's go for shorter, easier to remember and more useful URLs.
I completely agree that it is overkill to add a "
" in front of a server name like
. Even so, I recommend making it
for users to type the
since many will do so out of habit.
I do not yet recommend removing the
from the standard name of a main website. I believe that the prefix serves as a signal to users that the name refers to a website and that it flows automatically from the fingers of many users. Maybe in a year or two the situation will be different.
Even today, it is nice to support the use of a prefix-less domain name as an
way of reaching a website: it just shouldn't be the main way that is printed in advertisements and on business cards. As a matter of fact, I probably have to move my own site to another ISP soon because of this very issue since my current host doesn't support alternate names for the same server.
I'll present my newest usability guidelines in the tutorial on
Fundamental Guidelines for Web Usability
at the annual
Usability Week conference
The conference also has a full-day seminar on
Emerging Patterns for Web Design