Formatting a really long web address

4 steps to simplifying URLs


I was behind a truck in traffic yesterday with an URL boldly printed across the back. And since traffic was moving slowly, I got a nice long look at it:

Okay. I may have changed the address to protect the innocent. But it was a really long address. And it looked really awkward.

I see addresses like this all the time and I'm not sure why designers don't instinctively take steps to make these addresses more readable and easier to remember. I'm guessing that designers are simply using the addresses that are provided to them by copywriters and clients, but it really is easy to clean up.


Step one, get rid of the protocol.

You really don’t need to put “http://“ at the beginning of a URL. It’s called the protocol identifier and if you type the address into a web browser without it, the browser will add it for you. So all it adds is clutter.

So drop the protocol and it’s already better:

But don’t stop there…


Step two, dump the www.

Most websites don’t need the “www” to take you to the proper address. Again, unnecessary clutter. If your web site does require the www for the URL to resolve properly, you have two options: leave the www. in the address; or contact the person who set it up and have them fix it.

Definitely better. But can we make it easier to read?


Step three, do you really need that specific page?

Sometimes, you need to direct someone to a specific page on a site — a landing page or specific bit of content. But if it’s just “/home” or “/index” you can usually drop it:

Just make sure the shortened address takes you to the desired location.


And finally, can you improve it with intercapping or some other design treatment?

Web addresses sometimes have hidden words. And that’s not always good. For example, a reader may not see “Really Long Web Address,” but may instead see “ Really Long We Bad Dress.” Same letters, but completely different. Sometimes, you can insert capital letters into the middle of the URL to help the viewer read the address as intended. Or use color and type weight to make the address read correctly. For example:

URLs are not typically case sensitive so the capitalization doesn’t alter the address in any way. It’s just easier to read.


The bottom line: Use the shortest URL possible that takes the viewer where you want them to go.

Because it's easier to read on the back of a truck than

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he is stuck in traffic. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.