W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-qa@w3.org > September 2003

Re: QA Tips: Make readable URIs

From: Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>
Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2003 03:50:10 +0200
To: Dominique HazaŽl-Massieux <dom@w3.org>
Cc: Victor Engmark <engmark@orakel.ntnu.no>, www-qa@w3.org
Message-ID: <3f724966.1686305759@smtp.bjoern.hoehrmann.de>

* Dominique HazaŽl-Massieux wrote:
>Sorry for the bad turn-around... I have posted your document as draft
>tip on the tips list:
>http://www.w3.org/2001/06tips/readable-uri.html
>http://www.w3.org/2001/06tips/

Publishing the tip at http://www.w3.org/2001/06tips/readable-uri.html is
ridiculous. I suggest to read http://www.useit.com/alertbox/990321.html
A good URI for the document would be e.g.

  http://www.w3.org/QA/tips/readable-uris

The current URI even violates <http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI>...

>- one of the principle behind the design of the URIs is that they are
>opaque, which means that nothing/nobody should infer anything from the
>characters used in the URI; this should be reminded at the very top of
>the tip, and maybe the title of the tip should be changed to make that
>clearer.

I disagree. URIs are an important part of the web site user interface,
they are commonly recognized and used by users of the web site and these
users expect URIs to be designed and to behave in certain ways.

>"When a URI has to be advertized through a medium that doesn't easily
>support following hypertext links (e.g. a URI on paper or in some email
>clients), it's much easier for the user to have to type a readable URIs
>rather than a unreadable one."

URIs are not about advertisement by content providers, they are about
users who interact with a web site. The number of URIs for which it
would be unreasonable to expect users to talk about the resource in an
email or type it directly into the address bar of their web browser is
close to zero, so in practise there is no "when" or "have to" involved
here.

>I simply don't agree on the recommendation of using directories
>generally speaking. The organisation of a Web site is really too
>dependent on the server configuration, the information architecture, the
>publication system to make such a general recommendation.

This is irrelevant for URI or site structure design. This is user
interface design which considers only the user and his expecations and
not internal organization. Usable URIs reflect the site structure and
are hackable and most of the time this can be achieved by using path
components. 

>I like the part about language negotiation, although it would be nice to
>have this notion appear in the text.

Using language negotiation is good, using /index.html.no instead of
/no/index.html as the tip suggests probably is not. IMO, quite the
opposite should be recommended. Two simple problems: first, you want
a search engine to index all your localized pages, how do you do it?
HTTP provides no means to query for all alternates so you need specific
links to consider all of them and visitors would rather get to
/index.html.no instead of /index.html which is intended. Second, even
though a user has configured his browser to prefer german over english,
he wants for some reason to read the web site in english. How does he
switch the language for the current site without changing his browser
configuration? Not possible using /index.html.no but easy using
/no/index.html. The tip also contradicts another tip, "enable localized
directory names" as you cannot use language negotiation the way
suggested if the URIs are different.
Received on Thursday, 18 September 2003 21:50:29 GMT

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