There is now over a zettabyte of information on the web. There are thousands of new pages added every day. And every single one of those needs to have a URL! Even those who are relatively URL savvy - following best practices and protocols such as including both your company name and a description of your service, using hyphens where necessary and being memorable - may not be aware of some of the intricacies associated with URL length. Today we draw battle lines and some rules of war, and see who'll win ... long URLs, or short URLs?!
In the war between long and short URLs, it isn’t easy to determine who'll win the readability battle. Here are some of the factors that play into the readability of a particular URL:
- Whether it is hyphenated or not
- Whether the URL forms an intelligible sentence or 'story' of some kind. For example, www.whatchildrenreallywant.blogspot.com is long, but more readable than www.w4tyh41111.ca
- Whether you capitalise the start of words
If you’re choosing a URL for your main business domain name, obviously memorability is key. This doesn’t always directly relate to URL length - long URLs are not necessarily more difficult to remember than short ones. If your URL rolls off the tongue and doesn’t include any 'mean tricks' (like replacing the word 'for' with the number 4), it will be memorable. Another draw!
URL Length for link sharing
There are some great URL shorteners available on the net, with ultra-fast interfaces, built-in image servers, interactive features, robust servers and even revenue generating potential.
When you're sharing links in a Facebook status, an email, and especially in a Tweet, you'll most likely be deep linking to a page other than the site's home page. If you're linking to a blog post, you may even have the entire post title hyphenated out in the URL. If those enormous addresses even fit in a Tweet, they look messy and sometimes even intimidate people so much that they choose not to click on them. When long URLs are shared in an email, if they run over a line break some email clients will not preserve the link, making people copy and paste. Short URLs are the clear link-sharing battle winner!
Most of the time URL length is not the only consideration - apart from when you're trying to share links with people online! Both long and short URLs work well in different situations - match your length to your task.