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Do speaking URLs make sense?

Recently I was thinking about so called speaking urls which means URLs of the form /chapter/section/subsection/article compared to /5362. Do such URLs give any advantage to e.g. id-based URLs or maybe completely hidden ones. Should the user care about this piece of information?

There are some issues with URLs and the underlying filename/folder concept anyway:

  • it’s sometimes quite hard to think of a good filename. You have written a 100 page text and need to summarize all this in a approx. 10 character filename. Nearly impossible ;-)
  • it’s usually hard to find a good site structure which means the needed hierarchy. Usually the found solution will not meet all needs which are there already or arise in the future. So many sites have a related links section. But aren’t the sub-objects are not related links aswell?
  • URLs of this form are very hard to remember. They are speaking to you and you know what they mean but still after a week you might not know how exactly it was.
  • Besides that you usually do not enter URLs except the domain. After that you either climb down the hierarchy or you search. The latter is most of the time much faster but unfortunately on most sites this function is difficult to find.

So that summarizes in the question: Why not simply using ids? ;-)
(I actually just changed this blog to use numbers instead of asking me for a filename).

Zope and the rest of the world

As for Zope it was mostly said that compared to most database driven CMS it has the advantage of speaking URLs. This might have changed a bit today anyway as some db CMS also changed their implementation to have speaking URLs. Nevertheless the above question still is valid.


For one client we implemented a new CMS based on Zope/Plone and moved away from the ID-based approach (as formerly a database was used and now it’s the ZODB). What happened was first that they were happy to have the hierarchy in the URL also but then the requirement came up to implement something like in order to make them more usable on printed ads. So even the existance of makes it clear that long and speaking URLs are not that usable as one might think at first.

They look better, though.

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