UAS strategy for URL aliases

Introduction

Setting URL aliases is not always necessary, but a good URL strategy can make it easier for users to navigate web content. The following is a guide on how to choose a sensible URL strategy for individual sites. UAS editors should engage with this guidance to ensure their URLs are as user-friendly as possible. 

Please note that URL aliases should ideally be set before your website goes live. 

Default settings - T4 Sitemanager v Mosaic

In Sitemanager, the URLs of individual pages replicate the navigation path a user would take to find the page on the site, for example:

  • admin.ox.ac.uk/personnel/during/family/maternity/unimatscheme/

Mosaic, by default, creates URLs by only using the original page title of the page (meaning that if a page title is changed later, the URL does not automatically change with it):

  • site.admin.ox.ac.uk/page-title

This means editors should make sure to choose appropriate page titles when they first create a page.

What is an alias?

Aliases are alternative URLs that you can set up for individual webpages. A webpage can have any number of aliases. Whichever alias you set to be the 'primary' or 'preferred' one will be the default URL for that page within the Mosaic system. Users can still reach the page by typing one of the other aliases into their browser. 

Please note that tools like Google Analytics will show stats for all the URLs users have used to find your pages. If you know that users are using two different aliases to reach a page, you have to remember to add up those numbers in any web traffic report.

When is a URL alias strategy necessary?

Mosaic follows a task based approach – the idea that every page meets a unique user need, and URLs reflecting those. This approach works best for smaller sites with fewer than 100 content pages.

For bigger sites, however, it makes sense to develop a URL alias strategy. Mosaic allows editors to set aliases for each page and to choose a 'preferred' URL alias. On each page, this setting can be found under ‘URL path settings’.

What is a good URL strategy?

The keyword is consistency. URLs should help the user, for example when they are looking for a specific page in their browser history. URLs should be unique, and contain enough information for users to distinguish pages that deal with the same topic.

It is not necessary to replicate the entire breadcrumb in the URL.

Two approaches to URL aliases are outlined below. You can follow only one or combine them, but remember to be consistent throughout your site.

 

Approach 1: organise by task

If you have several pages that deal with the same topic or task, but they all deal with different aspects, it might be a good idea to create aliases that reflect that.

Let’s assume you created four pages about maternity leave. Mosaic created the following URLs, based on the page titles:

  • hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/university-maternity-pay-scheme
  • hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/employment-benefits-during-maternity
  • hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/before-birth
  • hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/after-maternity-leave

Imagine you have visited all of these pages before and now want to find a specific one in your browser history. You would type in “maternity”, and the above list comes up. Not very user-friendly!

To help the user, create URL aliases for all of these pages that separate the overall topic, maternity leave, from the more specific task:

  • hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/maternity-leave/pay
  • hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/maternity-leave/benefits
  • hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/maternity-leave/before-birth
  • hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/maternity-leave/returning

The most important information is now at the end of the URL, where it’s easy to spot. 

Again, this does not mean to replicate the breadcrumb in the URL. Where in the site navigation this content sits is not relevant to the user here. When they visit the page, they will have the breadcrumb to orientate themselves.

Another variant of this approach can be taken when you have a section within your website that is aimed at a very specific audience, and is slightly separate from the site’s “main” audience, for example:

  • occupationalhealth.ox.ac.uk/medical-students/fit-for-practice

 

 

Approach 2: organise by content type

Mosaic already creates URLs for certain content types using ‘people’, ‘event’ or ‘article’ as a marker within the URL, in this format:

  • site.admin.ox.ac.uk/event/name-of-event
  • site.admin.ox.ac.uk/people/name-of-person
  • site.admin.ox.ac.uk/article/article-title

This has the advantage that there is a clear distinction between, for example, a news article about the maternity leave pay scheme and the main guidance content on the site:

  • News article: hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/article/maternity-leave-scheme
  • Content page: hr.admin.ox.ac.uk/maternity-leave

This is a helpful approach you might want to expand on. If you know you will have a lot of policies on your site, for example, you might want to consider giving all of them aliases following this pattern:

  • site.admin.ox.ac.uk/policy/name-of-the-policy

Again, the most important information, the name of the policy, should be at the end of the URL. 

 

 

Related content

Content editors should also follow the guidance on writing for UAS websites.

Return to

UAS websites transition homepage
UAS websites editor guidance

Contact

For questions or feedback about this guide email Peter Stockdale

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