A standard structure is established for the URLs of all common College site types using a base URL of www.imperial.ac.uk/. All sites within the Site Manager CMS are placed within the most relevant section of the information architecture. This structure has been developed to facilitate a clearer user experience for the College’s website visitors, ensuring that similar content is grouped together on the site without having to follow the organisational structure of Imperial.
A small number of top level folders have been created within Site Manager and all sections of the website will be placed within the most appropriate section.
This policy covers the use of top level subdirectories of www.imperial.ac.uk/.
A subdirectory, in the context of Imperial, is the name that appears after 'www.imperial.ac.uk/'. For example, for the web address www.imperial.ac.uk/news, 'news' is the subdirectory.
Subdomains of imperial.ac.uk
A subdomain, in the context of Imperial, is the name that appears before ‘.imperial.ac.uk’ (which is the domain). For example, the web address for the main College website is www.imperial.ac.uk. In this case ‘www’ is the subdomain. Other examples include blackboard.imperial.ac.uk, for the College’s Blackboard service and events.imperial.ac.uk, used for the College events content management system.
This policy does not cover subdomains. If you intend to request a subdomain you should instead refer to the Policy for subdomain requests for imperial.ac.uk.
Creating URLs and URL redirects
All new sites created within Site Manager and all URL redirect requests will be reviewed on a weekly basis by the Digital team to ensure their logical placing within the site information architecture and to maintain the uniqueness of URLs and avoidance of name clashes. To request a new site / URL, please contact your Faculty Web Officer or Geoff Day initially. Redirects are set up by ICT on Friday mornings between 7.00 and 9.00. Requests must be received and approved by the Digital team by the end of the previous Wednesday in order to be set up that week, so we recommend planning and seeking approval for these as far in advance as possible.
If the new site is not at the top level of the College website, URL redirects will be considered where web addresses will need to be included in print material, presentations or regularly referred to verbally. Unless a special case is made, only site homepages will be considered for redirects. Vanity redirects (short URLs) must redirect to College website (www.imperial.ac.uk) URLs or other .imperial.ac.uk subdomains and not to link into websites or applications on other domains.
Sites which have historically had a URL directly accessible from the College’s base URL, e.g. www.imperial.ac.uk/mechanicalengineering/ will have a top level redirect created to ensure historic versions continue to work. So www.imperial.ac.uk/mechanicalengineering will resolve to www.imperial.ac.uk/faculties-and-departments/mechanical-engineering.
If you wish to signpost briefly a page deep within your site, it is worth considering using a free URL shortener which can also offer metrics on URL use. Both bit.ly and tiny.url offer customisable URL shorteners.
Redirects for renamed websites
If you change the web address (URL) of your website, then in most cases we will not create redirects from the old web address to the new one. This is due to the effect on the overall performance of the website and technical complexities of adding numerous redirects.
Before moving or renaming your website, you should consider the consequences for visitors. For example, if you change the name of your website from 'Student tools' www.imperial.ac.uk/students/student-tools to 'Student resources' www.imperial.ac.uk/students/student-resources, then anyone visiting the old URL will get a ‘page not found’ (404) page with related search results.
Another consequence of changing the web address, is that it may have a short term effect on your search ranking. This will apply to any strong keyword search links to your existing URL.
If you have considered these and still wish to rename your website, please contact Geoff Day who can do the following for you:
- Create a Google promotion for the old website name - when people arrive on the 404 page, the new URL will be featured prominently at the top of the page.
- Delist the old URL in Google - the old website address will not feature in any search results and will be replaced by your new web address.
As most visits to the Imperial website are from search engines, the above steps will resolve issues for the majority of visitors. But there are some exceptions where we would consider creating a temporary redirect from the old web address(es):
- There are high profile printed materials containing links to the old URL. Examples of these could include research publications, student prospectus, annual report or posters around campus.
- A significant proportion of recent traffic to the website is direct as opposed to search. This could be due to an ongoing marketing or communications campaign.
- There are hard-coded links in other systems within Imperial or elsewhere that would not be possible to update before you rename the website. In this case, there would need to be evidence that a significant proportion of traffic comes from that source.
All requests will be discussed on a case by case basis.
URL best practice guidance
When deciding on the URL for your site, and also for any sub sections of your site, consider the following guidance:
- If you’re using multiple words, separate them with hyphens to facilitate ease of reading for users and search engine optimisation e.g., www.imperial.ac.uk/mechanical-engineering
- URLs should not be acronyms, e.g., www.imperial.ac.uk/me (We may make an exception for subdomain requests if the website's full title exceeds 50 characters.)
- URLs should not use the .ic.ac.uk domain
- Each page’s URL should describe the content of that page, yet be as short as possible. Try to keep them below 100 characters (in total) if possible and if you can, limit to 5 words
- When creating a page name, consider the primary keyword for the page and try to include it
- URLs should be lower case. Avoid MiXeD cAsE URLs
- Avoid using numbers in the URL unless the site is for a very specific timeframe (e.g. the 2020 conference) – they can be confusing for your users and can quickly date a site
- Don’t use spaces
- Try and ensure your URLs are memorable. If people can remember your URLs, they can also share about it with their friends or colleagues more easily
- Keep the language for section headers consistent with the rest of the website. The table below lists some common examples.
|Contact information; address||Contact us||Contact; Get in touch|
|General information; history||About us||About; Introduction|
|Research information||Research||Research groups; Our research|
|Information for prospective students||Study; Prospective students||Courses; New students; Future students|
|Information for undergraduates||Undergraduate||UG; Undergraduate information|
|Information for postgraduates||Postgraduate||PG; Postgraduate information|
|Information about staff||People||Staff|
|Information for staff||For staff||People|
|Industry connections||Business and industry|
|News||News||Updates; Bulletin; Announcements|
|Public Engagement||For the public||Local|
|Positions / opportunities||Opportunities; Jobs||Positions|
Applying for a URL exception
The Web Exception Policy details how to apply for a new non-standard URL.