Permalinks

Permalinks

A bad or broken permalink can be the difference between being curated into an exhibition and being left out. Let's see how to easily avoid that problem.


Let's think about a unit of a content, like My Cuurriculum Vitae, or TEDxCSULB '17 Speakers. And let's call this unit of content a Page. This Page has 4 properties:

  1. The Content on the page
  2. The Name of the page
  3. The URL of the page
  4. A Menu Item pointing to the page

How it works

In order to share your Content with a visitor to your site, all 4 need to work. And more importantly for the topic of Permalinks, if someone saves a bookmark, or makes a Pin on a platform like Pinterest, or shares a Link on their own Website or a social space like LinkedIn or Facebook, the URL to your Content can never change. A URL that is intended to never change is called a Permalink.

Why you should care

If your URL changes after someone has bookmarked it, or shared it on their own Website, or on Twitter or Pinterest, then when that person, or any other interested person tries to follow that link, instead of seeing your content, they will see a 404 Page Not Found error. If a curator saved a link to your CV, or to a page of your work, along with 100 other artists they were considering for a show, they'll probably just keep moving through their list of links. A bad permalink may have just cost you a space in an exhibition.

1. The Content

This is the most important, and in a way, the easiest part. It's all the elements of your CV, or all of the TEDxCSULB '17 speakers photos and bios.

2 & 3. The Name & URL of your page

Very often the Name and the URL of your page will be the same, like:

  • Curriculum Vitae & me.com/curriculum-vitae
  • Speakers & tedxcsulb.com/speakers

It's important to understand that while the Name & URL of your page are often the same, they don't have to be. Sometimes you might want them to be different. Sometimes you might want them to be the same but accidentally make them different.

New Page

When you make a new page on a platform like CargoCollective or WordPress, it will default to using the Name of the Page as the URL of the Page. For me.com/curriculum-vitae this might be good, but for tedxcsulb.com/speakers this might be problematic.

Your CV might be named "CV" or it might be named "Curriculum Vitae" and the URL might be me.com/cv or me.com/curriculum-vitae What you choose is not as important as that you know what you've chosen and that you don't change or accidentally break your permalink.

You can see how having your URL change from me.com/cv to me.com/curriculum-vitae would be bad. All you have to do is not change it by accident. On an Artist's Website it shouldn't be hard to keep this straight. But on a Project or Event website like tedxcsulb.com it can be easier to get it messed up.

URL Choices

This issue came up for me when I wanted to put links on my website to point to the pages with the Speakers and Organizers of TEDxCSULB '17. Here's 3 pages, what their URLs are, and what Glenn thinks they should be:

  • What the page is -- current page URL -- Glenn thinks it should be
  • Speakers '17 -- tedxcsulb.com/speakers-1 -- tedxcsulb.com/speakers-17
  • Organizers '17 -- tedxcsulb.com/the-team -- tedxcsulb.com/organizers-17
  • Speakers '16 -- tedxcsulb.com/pastevents -- tedxcsulb.com/speakers-16

The reason that URLs like /speakers-1, /the-team & /pastevents make me nervous is that they sound either like URL will change, or that the content at that URL will change. For a long project or recurring event I think these are problematic URLs and I don't have confidence linking to them. I worry that my link will go bad sooner or later.

/pastevents could mean all kinds of things. It could be a list of parties or organizing meetups. /speakers-17 is a URL that I can be pretty confident will really be a Permalink.

/speakers-1 feels like a list of current speakers. So a year from now when TEDxCSULB '18 is produced it might be the URL of those speakers. But where will the list of '17 speakers go? to /pastevents? Or somewhere else? I can't really be sure how to make a link to the set of speakers from this year because of the iffy nature of that link.

/theteam is the same thing. If I want the 2017 Organizers, will it still point to them a year from now?

Another bonus of using a URL system like /speakers-16 and /organizers-17 is that if I know one URL, I could just type another. So these are the /speakers-17? Cool! I'll just change the 7 to a 6 and take a look at who spoke last year.

Making the Change

Knowing what you want your Permalink to be is important. Setting it is easy. Here's an example using WordPress:

WordPress screencap showing where to enter a page title and page permalink At the top of my WordPress page is a box where I can enter the Name of the page, in this case, Architecture & Urban Planning. If I don't type a URL (Permalink) it will default to using the name, in this case, glenn.zucman.com/architecture-urban-planning. However there are 2 places I can type a different URL: right underneath the Page Name I can click Edit to type a different URL, or off on the side is a Slug box where I can type the "Slug" (URL) for my page. In this case, I don't want that long URL, I just want the URL (Permalink) to be /aup

4. Menu Items

Finally there's your menu system that points to all of these elements. If you happen to be blogging about your painting or your TEDx conference, and over time produce 100 blog posts, then not all of them will be on your menu system. That body of work will be found through tags, searches and other means. But your main pages, like /curriculum-vitae and /speakers-17 you'll want on your main menu. This is separate from whatever the URL is, but it's another important way people will access your content.

cartoon person with a sword slicing through the links of a chain image: A1 Website Pro

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