Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL

Jamie’s recent post about his work on the design of BBC’s /programmes service highlights an important trend in the design of modern web products. It’s all about the resource and its URL.

Topography thumnail

Web site design use to be focused on the page and the sitemap – we assumed users would visit a site and browse around a bit while they were there – sites therefore wrapped their content in heavy branding and optimised their navigation around the ‘left hand nav’.

This sort of made sense if, as a publisher, you’re dealing with a small number of pages, your paradigm for web publishing is the same as print publishing and your technology is limited to static files. However, it does force users into navigating in a ‘wagon wheel strategy’ i.e. they would read something and then navigate up to a top level index page (e.g. news, programmes, a-z &c.) to find something else of interest before navigating out again to a resource.

Site owners effectively thought of their sites as silos – a self contained object, a web of pages, with a handful of doors (links) in and out – well even if they didn’t think of them as silos they sure treated them as such. But as Tom Coates puts it Web 2.0 is about moving from a “web of pages to a web of data“:

A web of data sources, services for exploring and manipulating data, and ways that users can connect them together.

This has some important implications for the design of web sites. Users expect to be able to navigate directly from resource to resource. From concept to concept. Look at the YouTube design – right there on the right are links to other related videos and the top level navigation is light weight and focused around aggregations or list views.

Lego Darth Vader Canteen Incident

In other words web 2.0 sites have two main classes of page: primary objects or resources and aggregation views which give their users multiple routes into the same resource. And that resource is located at a single URL. That last point might seem painfully self evident: ‘one resource = one URL’ but either its not that obvious or its difficult to achieve.

Wikipedia are the masters of this – they work to ensure that they only have one entry per concept – this means that they have one URL per concept. And that’s a lot better, if harder to achieve, than one URL per resource. On Wikipedia an entry will be moved, merged or split to ensure that it only deals with one concept. But even if your resource deals with more than one concept, it should only be found at one (persistent) URL so that search engines can index it properly (so people can find it); so people can link to it and; so third party applications can be integrated with it. Simon Willison explains why, although people may well be able to discern that two URLs probably point to the same thing, machines can’t.

Once you have a single resource at a single persistent URL you can start to do some interesting things. You can make that resource available in a variety of different formats each optimised for different uses: HTML for web browsers, XHTML MB or WML for mobile, JSON for Ajax applications etc. You can start to expose your data to other web applications and then you can start to benefit from the network effect.

One consequence of a network effect is that the purchase of a good by one individual indirectly benefits others who own the good — for example by purchasing a telephone a person makes other telephones more useful.

By making your site and its data available in this way means that others will be able to link to your resources to help give context to their content. And if you’ve done your job well they won’t even need to manually ‘link’ to it – if you happen to be using a common set of identifiers and vocabularies then web applications can do a lot of the work for you.

If however, you start off by thinking about web pages, site maps, left hand navigations and visual design you will very quickly photoshop yourself into a corner. You will find it difficult to create a web of data instead you will end up with a bag of pages, others won’t be able to integrate with your data and your relevance on the web will fall or fail to start.

And if you are after a case study of what to do – you should have a look at Matt’s presentation at FOWA on the development of Dopplr.

26 responses to “Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL”

  1. Good stuff. Wikipedia, or more accurately Mediawiki, doesn’t actually get the URL thing so right at the HTTP level. To wit:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lang_Park

    NB: “redirected from Lang Park” but the URL is not redirected, so it’s not canonical. A search engine will not be able to distinguish that “clone” resource from the article at its intended address, without exceptional logic.

  2. […] Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL Lots of concepts that need a bit of pondering.. (tags: Web2.0 urls url interesting @work) […]

  3. […] Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL « Derivadow.com (tags: design webdesign web2.0 url rest ia web urls) […]

  4. […] Tom Scott has done a great job underlining the essence of Web 2.0 applications. He describes exactly that part of Web 2.0 applications that is actually new. He also underlines […]

  5. […] all about the resource and its URL Web site design use to be focused on the page and the sitemap – we assumed users would visit a site and browse around a bit while […]

  6. […] Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL « Derivadow.com (tags: design webdesign web2.0 web blogs blogging) […]

  7. […] Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL « Derivadow.com (tags: web2.0 webdesign url REST) […]

  8. […] https://derivadow.com/2007/12/28/web-design-20-its-all-about-the-resource-and-its-url/ vizz.fm blog is proudly using the Simpla theme originally designed by Phu. Powered by WordPress. Blog by David Cann. […]

  9. […] agreed with this post: -> Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL Site owners effectively thought of their sites as silos – a self contained object, a web of pages, […]

  10. […] coverage is a bit thin and only applies to TV, but we’re getting there. And of course because web design is about the resource and its URL we’ve also made this information separately addressable […]

  11. […] we should be delivering different content to mobile devices we should be worrying about building a web of data and mobile applications that can combine that data in interesting ways with data on the phone. Of […]

  12. […] Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL « Derivadow.com Useful summary of the web of data argument put forward by Coates, Biddulph and others. Down to earth. Explains the value of this approach well. (tags: IA IxD interactiondesign informationarchitecture web data concepts resources URLs) […]

  13. […] URLs are important. They are at the very heart of the idea behind Linked Data, the semantic web and Web 2.0 because if you can’t point to a resource on the web then it might as well not exist and this means URLs need to be persistent. But URLs are important because they also tell you about the provenance of the resource and that helps you decide how important or trustworthy a resource is likely to be. […]

  14. I think it is not a bit deal to enable visitors to link to your resources and there are a lot of solutions.

  15. wow..Web design 2.0 is it the advance than other company using it right now? if it right, well i think i should make a blog on it….great info…thanks

  16. […] I don’t line up with with the total web 2.0 labeling, Tom Scott has a great article that outlines some evolutionary changes in considering web development. As he points out […]

  17. […] all about the resource and its URL Share and […]

  18. […] presentation is based on the thinking outlined in my previous post: web design 2.0 it’s all about the resource and its URL. « Interesting stuff from around the […]

  19. […] Web design 2.0 – it’s all about the resource and its URL — thanks to Simon Willison this is my most popular post of all time and of 2008. […]

  20. […] of of Linked Data fetishist. I believe that the future of web design lies not in webpages but in URLs and resources. If you’re not sure what I’m on about then I suggest you read Tim Berners Lee’s […]

  21. Tom –

    What a 2.0 resource! Beautiful work, it’s now bookmarked as a favorite!

  22. Another great tutorial! Thank you so much for taking the time and being so clear in your step by step instructions.

  23. […] 11 March 2010 by Tom Scott Just over two years ago I wrote a post about the importance of the resource and the URL — and I still stand by what I said there: the core of a website should be the resource and […]

  24. I know this is old, but it has change a little bit, the solutions are still the same, I just hope you follow up this post soon, I will keep checking back.

  25. with all the talk of the web 2.0 bubble that has been going around, people need to understand that web 2.0 is here to stay, it will only get better. Don’t compare web 1.0 to 2.0. Even when we go to 3.0, all the web 2.0 site will adjust. The 1.0 from the 90’s, for those who don’t know, were site that had no content and nothing to them but a domain name, today, site have to prove them self to stay in business.

  26. […] header.  I’ll go into more detail on why later, but following a link that Roy provided to this article, I came across this passage: … although people may well be able to discern that two URLs […]

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