Tweaking navigation labelling

I’ve always liked the idea that your website can be your API. Like, you’ve already got URLs to identify resources, so why not make that URL structure predictable and those resources parsable?

That’s why the (read-only) API for The Session doesn’t live at a separate subdomain. It uses the same URL structure as the regular site, but you can request the resources in an alternative format: JSON, XML, RSS.

This works out pretty well, mostly because I put a lot of thought into the URL structure of the site. I’m something of a URL fetishist, but I think that taking a URL-first approach to information architecture can be a good exercise.

Most of the resources on The Session involve nouns like tunes, events, discussions, and so on. There’s a consistent and predictable structure to the URLs for those sections:

  • /things
  • /things/new
  • /things/search

And then an idividual item can be found at:

  • things/ID

That’s all nice and predictable and the naming of the URLs matches what you’d expect to find:

Tunes, events, discussions, sessions. Those are all fine. But there’s one section of the site that has this root URL:

/recordings

When I was coming up with the URL structure twenty years ago, it was clear what you’d find there: track listings for albums of music. No one would’ve expected to find actual recordings of music available to listen to on-demand. The bandwidth constraints and technical limitations of the time made that clear.

Two decades on, the situation has changed. Now someone new to the site might well expect to hit a link called “recordings” and expect to hear actual recordings of music.

So I should probably change the label on the link. I don’t think “albums” is quite right—what even is an album any more? The word “discography” is probably the most appropriate label.

Here’s my dilemma: if I update the label, should I also update the URL structure?

Right now, the section of the site with /tunes URLs is labelled “tunes”. The section of the site with /events URLs is labelled “events”. Currently the section of the site with /recordings URLs is labelled “recordings”, but may soon be labelled “discography”.

If you click on “tunes”, you end up at /tunes. But if you click on “discography”, you end up at /recordings.

Is that okay? Am I the only one that would be bothered by that?

I could update the URLs to match the labelling (with redirects for the old URLs, of course), but I’m not so keen on this URL structure:

  • /discography
  • /discography/new
  • /discography/search
  • /discography/ID

It doesn’t seem as tidy as:

  • /recordings
  • /recordings/new
  • /recordings/search
  • /recordings/ID

But if I don’t update the URLs to match the label, then I’m just going to have to live with the mismatch.

I’m just thinking out loud here. I think I should definitely update the label. I just won’t make any decision on changing URLs for a while yet.

Have you published a response to this? :

Responses

Nicolas Hoizey

@adactio I think “recordings” is better because it’s a plural for the king of content you find inside. Like on your site you have “articles”, “notes”, “links”, but “journal” feels different.

I have the exact same issue… 😅

4 Likes

# Liked by Jeff on Sunday, December 4th, 2022 at 1:47pm

# Liked by higby on Sunday, December 4th, 2022 at 4:26pm

# Liked by Ethan Marcotte on Sunday, December 4th, 2022 at 4:26pm

# Liked by Eric Portis on Monday, December 5th, 2022 at 5:17am

Previously on this day

6 years ago I wrote Fractal ways

24 ways, 1 component library.

8 years ago I wrote Mindcraft

A collaboration between Clearleft and the Wellcome Trust.

10 years ago I wrote Six impossible questions

Answers on an impossible postcard please.

11 years ago I wrote The forgotten house

The internet never forgets to think that the internet never forgets.

16 years ago I wrote Flash On The Beach: day one

Art, code and business on one bill.

17 years ago I wrote Writing for the Web

There’s a wonderful article over on Digital Web called "Resurrect Your Writing, Redeem Your Soul". It’s all about how to write well, especially on the Web, and it’s the very antithesis of Nielsen’s checklist approach.

21 years ago I wrote KPMG

I’m linking to kpmg.com because I can.

21 years ago I wrote "Goner" Worm

Here’s a fairly neutral report on a new worm that’s doing some damage.

21 years ago I wrote A web of visions

I was just over at the BBC website reading this article about Joshua Davis and his inclusion in the current exhibition at the Design Museum.