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From an SEO perspective, it may be negligible if you include a trailing slash for directories or not, as long as you set redirects to the chosen one (to avoid duplicate content) and link-build to the right one:

Other authors suggest that it's best to avoid a redirect and that a trailing slash is typically for directories (folders), while a lack thereof implies a file.

But what about the user's perspective?

Is there any research on the best practice? What do users expect? (If anything.)

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+1 for interesting question. I've always included trailing slashes when writing code or communicating an URL (even when it looks like a directory name but results in serving a file) and never considered if there were any file vs. directory conventions. – obelia Dec 8 '12 at 19:56
Doesn't make a blind bit of difference, but it feels weird to have a slash at the end... for exactly the reason you mention: no slash = file and a page sort of implies a "file" – Marjan Venema Dec 8 '12 at 19:56
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Case 1:

A slash indicates a directory. The lack of a slash indicates a file. Obvious cases:

Case 2:

What is less obvious are the cases where URIs are not mapped directly to the file system. For example:


Append a slash if:

  • The target is listing something (like a set of files in a directory or a bunch of products on an e-commerce website), or:

  • The target expects to be completed to form a more complete URI.

Note that in practice, nobody, among the users, care if there is a slash or not. If the URI is typed, most users would omit the slash. If the URI is a link, few people will read it, and even fewer try to assert something from the presence or the absence of a slash.

Also, you're free to use whatever convention feels natural for you. For example, Stack Exchange seems to avoid using a slash as much as possible, probably to shorten the URIs.

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If you think of the web as files put in folders that are listed in a certain hierarchy on a web server, pretty much like how a book is organized, you know that every web page you see is actually a page and not a folder. The same goes for a book... if someone told you to open up chapter 5 of the book - you would go to the first page of chapter 5 and not any random page or the last page.

Users know that they open a page, but not necessarily how the page is named. In this case I would end URLs' with either a trailing slash representing a folder, or writing out the entire file name as well as in

More to read: Trailing slash in URLs - which style is preferred?

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+1 for the book/chapter analogy – obelia Dec 8 '12 at 22:16

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