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Using URL shorteners for your intranet

You must have heard of TinyURL.com, bit.ly, ow.ly, goo.gl, droplr.com and other such ‘web address shortening services’ and you may well be using them without fuss or thought in your emails and tweets.

But do you use them when you’re at work with colleagues or do they cause confusion with non-techy people?

Did you know you can use your fave shortening service with intranet URLs? Oh yes. And here’s why you would want to.

Emailing a colleague a link to a specific page on your intranet shouldn’t be a problem, but what about when you want to promote an intranet page or section in print? If you have posters, newsletters, magazines, desk-drops, and letters home, you may need to help them find a specific area of your intranet. They might have the latest staff magazine in their hands, and want to know more while sat in front of their computers.

In your print material, you could:

a) Just state the URL in full. I mean, hey, your intranet might use beautiful human-readable URLs like this:

http://intranet.yourcompany.net/people/pensions/increase-in-pensions-for-all

But often, due to incredibly poor decision making on the part of the implementation designers, intranet web addresses look more like this:

http://intra.gdw5/Home%20page%20articles/2010/new/our%20people/Home%20page/news/gdwTemplate0012_new_page_45692367580.stm

The first address, well, it might just be possible that people will take the time to type in all those words and slashes. The second address? They’re life would have to be at risk to make them type all that rubbish into their address bar!

b) Use a ‘bread crumb’ style nudge to help people navigate to the right section, like this:

For more information, please visit our intranet and go to:
Our People > Pensions > Increase in Pensions for All

That ain’t so bad is it? But what if the page you wish people to visit has been dumped by an enthusiastic but amateur publisher deep deep down into the bowels of your intranet? Image an bread crumb like this:

Human Resources > Human Resources home > Learning & Development > Training and Tools for Managing People > Self-help Tool Kit for Managing People > Developing your Team

While it’s almost navigable, it takes up too much space in a magazine. Print media cares about word count. A lot.

3) Use your fave address shortener.

Go to the intranet web page you want to talk about, copy the web address from the address bar of your browser, and now head over to your fave shortening service.

Paste your address in, and the shortening service will make it very small. Copy the new short address, and test it by pasting it into your browser’s address bar. It should take you to the page you wanted.

If your intranet asks you to log on, then log on, and it should then take you to the page you wanted :)

If your intranet asks you to log on, and then dumps you on the front page, then you have a problem. You may have to paste the short address in again, and maybe this time your intranet will believe you have access rights, and give you the correct page.

If your intranet does ask your users to log on a lot, you may have to let them know in your magazine. Something like:

Please make sure you’re already logged into our intranet before using the address below.

P.S. Your intranet is not accessible at anytime to the shortening service. The service merely assigns a short address to the long address you’ve given it.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments; there may well be tech restrictions in different companies.

[Wedge]

Photo credit: Dawn Endico

If you would like to share or tweet this article, the short URL is: http://kilobox.net/1310/

About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.

4 thoughts on “Using URL shorteners for your intranet

  • As ever, an excellent post, Wedge. And a very timely one for me too. My organisation is, by its nature, still quite print-focussed, so we’re already looking at how we’ll signpost intranet content that won’t be created for months in ‘dead tree’ products that need to go to the printers right now.

    Complex URLs and lengthy breadcrumb trails both have their disadvantages, as you say. The compromise we’ve reached is to set aside our normal IA-based URL conventions and set up ‘vanity URLs’ for key content that can be published in print products. So for instance, intranet.mywork.com/library is a lot easier for people to key in than either a long breadcrumb trail or a complex URL, yet makes it clear the content is on the company intranet. This can be edited if the content is moved.

    This might not be possible for everyone, but where it is I think it has clear advantages.

  • Hi – great artcile.

    The intranet I look after has the address in the format of ”\\SERVER\Users\Public\INTRANET\web\index.html”. Is there a way I can create a short address for that?

    Thanks in advance,
    Andy
    wombat321@gmail.com

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