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Creating URL Rules

A few rules of thumb on URIs:

  • Do not omit the trailing slash when you link to a default document (for example index.html). Although you don't see a difference in your Web browser, your Web server must redirect to (HTTP response 302 - found elsewhere). 302-redirects are a bad thing for various reasons.
  • Always make use of short but self-explanatory names for directories and pages/scripts. Separate keywords in phrases by hyphens, not underscores or even spaces: /keyword-phrase/tutorial-keyword-phrase.htm is fine, /kwdphr/tkp.htm is poor, /keyword phrase/tutorial on keyword phrase.htm is invalid and results in all kind of troubles. Bookmarking users and search engines honor good naming conventions, and if users drop your links in forums etc., you even gain a raised keyword relevancy in terms of search engine rankings.
  • URIs in general are case-sensitive. There may be URIs, or parts of URIs, where case doesn't matter (for example domain or machine names), but identifying these may not be easy. Web developers should always consider that URIs are case-sensitive to be on the safe side. To avoid any confusion, use lowercase only (UNIX conventions): page.htm, Page.htm and PAGE.HTM are three different documents!
  • Keep query strings short. That means shorten variable names and try to make use of short integer values. Do not use 'ID' as part of composite variable names (product=20 instead of productID=20). Replace spaces in alphanumeric values by '+'. Omit useless variables, try to stick with no more than two or three variable/value pairs.
  • Each entity should have two unique keys, represented by an integer and an UUID. In public areas of your site use the integers in query strings, because search engine crawlers hate ugly URIs. In forms and protected areas use the UUIDs, because bored users and hackers tend to play with values and you don't want them updating data they shouldn't have access to.
  • Avoid tracking footprints in URIs, thus use session cookies instead of query string parameters to pass session IDs and alike. If for some weird reasons you can't avoid session IDs, omit them if the user agent is a Web robot. More information on search engine friendly URIs and query strings.

This article uses the term URI as defined here (see also RFC 1630). Note that URIs include URLs as defined in RFC 1738 and RFC 1808. To develop well formatted links on Web pages, you don't need to study these specifications. Just read URI (Universal Resource Identifier) as URL (Uniform Resource Locator), and follow the simple rules outlined above.

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