Written by Internet

URLs in Communications

I’m not a marketing expert, but my view on URLs that are given out in any kind of communications, for any reasons, is that they need to be as simple as possible.

Of course, the ideal is that you just click a link. But if you get an advert on TV, the radio or in printed media, then you want to keep that URL as simple as possible. Every extra character is another reason for someone not to visit your site.

And just because whatever system you’re using spits out a long URL, it doesn’t mean that you have to use it.

Case in point. This blog entry’s URL is:

https://www.adambowie.com/blog/2022/01/urls-in-communications/

That’s hideous. I wouldn’t want to give that to anyone to point them to it. Instead I’d either put a redirect in the root of my blog, maybe have some kind of top-level domain point towards it, or in my case, use the shortcode URL that I actually own (but rarely use) for this very purpose!

bowie.it/URL

That uses bit.ly to forward traffic to the correct URL. And I can even track where the traffic came from and so on. But one way or another, that’s a simple way to create a short URL that someone might be able to remember or at least copy successfully.

I mention all of this because my local council has just written to me to update its Voter Registration details. I believe that they have to do this by law every year. They have to check if the people living at a given address are still the same and so on.

This year they noted that because some boundaries and local wards have changed, my polling station may have changed. The letter provided a link to the page where I could look. Here it is (again):

Now that’s a pretty user-hostile URL.

I live in a London Borough, and there are areas within the Borough where English comprehension probably isn’t that great. And even if your comprehension is excellent, I do hope you can spell “councillors” correctly!

And here’s the thing. I visited the website and it didn’t work.

I got redirected back to the homepage!

Brilliant.

Using the site’s search functionality, revealed that the page they actually needed to point people to was:

new.enfield.gov.uk/services/councillors-and-democracy/polling-stations/

A couple of things:

  • They printed “www” when they should have printed “new”*
  • They left out “services” altogether

* The “new” domain of the website has been around for ages now, and it’s not “new” anymore. I assume at some point they tendered the website business, had a crossover period, and then got stuck with some awful CRM system to manage the website that nobody really knows how to use, and requires external help if they need to do anything big – like get rid of “new”. And councils don’t have the cash, so they leave it be.

Obviously, they should be promoting a URL like “enfield.gov.uk/polling” and just forward that link to the correct page. But either nobody thought to do that, or the software just doesn’t allow it.

But if you’re required to print hundreds of thousands of letters, then maybe check that one of your key URLs in that letter is correct. And ideally, make it simple.