I am currently designing a social media website that is going to be focused on businesses from multiple countries and I am trying to come up with the best URL structure for the website. I do not want to follow the standard approach that major social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and below I am going to explain why.

I am going to use Volkswagen as an example.

UK Website & Social Media Links


France Website & Social Media Links


As you can see above, having the business name concatenated with the country name or abbreviation does not look professional nor consistent hence are the following the solutions that I came up with:

Bear in mind that www.example.com is going to be the main website domain for all the examples below.

Solution 1:


Getting the website domain for all countries TLDs and using it as above. www.example.com, www.example.co.uk and www.example.fr are all going to point to the same website (databse, web server...). I think that this solution will work best for localized search engines as Googling for Volkswagen on Google.co.uk will have the top result as www.volkswagen.co.uk not www.volkswagen.com. The only thing that I'm worried about is the user experience of switching between .com, .co.uk and .fr, will it be affected?

Solution 2:


This URL structure looks cleaner but I do not recall seeing this approach anywhere on the web.

Solution 3:


This URL structure also looks clean but it involves having the business name on the second level of the structure, having the country abbreviation on the first level.


What about having Volkswagen's main URL to be www.example.com/volkswagen and automatically redirecting the users based on their location (IP or GPS) to their country's main website www.example.co.uk/volkswagen, uk.example.com/volkswagen or www.example.com/uk/volkswagen? The only disadvantage that I can think of is what if Volkswagen is entirely a different business in the UK and France. Won't forwarding the users based on location case confusion?

  • 2
    You confuse site langue (e.g. menus) with site content. What would the site language be for www.example.fr/volkswagen? On your facebook example uk and fr are different content (not just language) and the site language on my facebook does not change. What URL would have a default site language of French and the UK volkswagen content?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 16:09

5 Answers 5


First I have to say I find it a bit difficult to answer since your question actually consists of several questions – and on the other hand you're suggesting answers yourself that in my opinion are all valid.

When thinking about a geo- or country-related URL strategy it's difficult to come up with the right solution. Every option has its advantages and its disadvantages. To be a bit more specific:

Solution 1: only very few people actually switch between country specific pages – especially when the country is bound to the TLD. (That is at least what we found out when a couple of years ago i was working for a large media company and we did some research about the users – only about 2 percent switched the 'region'. And once they switch, they hardly ever switch again.)

Solution 2: looks totally ok to me – would be my personal favourite – very similar to Soluiton 1. Advantage: virtually unlimired regions/languages since you're not bound to TLDs. Can be handy when you have to deal with multilingual countries.

Solution 3: this is probably the 'cheapest' and most flexibel solution. If the site's differ a lot I wouldn't recommend this approach. But IMHO it is basically just as ok a solution as 2 and 1.

Forwarding: in my opinion forwarding is never a good idea. It breaks the atual yuser interaction and forces the user to accept presets he/she didn't choose. There may be reasons why a user has decided for a region/language that does not correspond to his/her IP address. For example:

  • Beeing on a holiday or business trip the user is accessing the website from a 'foreign' IP address – maybe even from a public access point like an internet cafe etc.
  • Some companies run their own networks – all IP addresses correspond with the headquarter but not with the actual user location
  • Some users may be using VPNs – their IP address would have nothing to no with their actual location and language preferences
  • 1
    Regarding the Forwarding comment, what are the chances of this occurring? If it's minimal, I do not believe it will have a huge impact on the UX.
    – AlGallaf
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 6:53
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    @AlGallaf Forwarding is not "huge" impact so it is OK?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 13:28
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    @Blam Let’s say I go with Solution 3, the official link to Volkswagen UK page is going to be www.example.com/uk/volkswagen. It would be an extra feature on the website to allow auto redirection based on IP or GPS from www.example.com/volkswagen to www.example.com/uk/volkswagen if the customer is from the UK or www.example.com/fr/volkswagen if the customer is from the France. If the user location is being identified as Spain, he/she’ll have to select either UK or France from www.example.com/volkswagen.
    – AlGallaf
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 13:43
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    @Blam www.example.com/volkswagen would not be the official link to Volkswagen page on the website. The link should not appear on Search Engines. It is only going to be used when users manually enter the link in the browser.
    – AlGallaf
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 13:53
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    What does statistics or actual location have to do with it? If you forward based on IP address of the Internet router then you impact the UX in what is generally regarded in a bad way. If I take my lap to Spain with me I don't want to be redirected to another site.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 14:15

What makes a good domain name?

I wonder whether "looking professional" or being "consistent" are so important in a domain name. I can understand that it may seem important to a designer to want to make all the ducks line up in neat row, so to speak, on a printed page. But I'd be inclined to think that, for any individual domain name, brevity and memorability are more important. Certainly, these two attributes, along with the lack of "ugly" typographic features such as dashes or slashes are what makes a domain name valuable -- http://www.dailyblogtips.com/the-7-characteristics-of-good-domain-names/

Should how a third party domain name looks dictate how your own domain name looks?

The initial examples you gave were corporate domain names, followed by social media domain names that are owned by third parties.

When domain names are owned by third parties (e.g. Facebook), you are restricted in how you can make them look. A lot of users will never log on to your social media sites. For those users, your own domain still needs to be short and memorable, without any ugly slashes.

Don't let the tail wag the dog, just for consistency.


Solution 2 is the best option presented


Going this route will provide the best UX for developers and here is why...

1. Use a two character code for each localized version of the text

Anyone who knows the 2 character country code system will intuitively know how things are organized when they see the first 2 letters of the URL. Everyone else will easily gloss over and ignore them. Either way, consistency always looks professional.

country codes

Table above credit: Wikipedia

2. The rest of the directory structure should be identical

Using the first 2 characters as a country code means that the rest of the URL can match exactly between languages without a lot of maintenance work from developers. A knowledgeable user should be able to switch from US English to ES Spanish (español) by changing the URL from us.example.com/new/ to es.example.com/new/

3. If the company gets acquired or changes names in the future

Finally if the company used in the example volkswagen changes names then it should be easy to update it in a single place and rebuild all the localized versions of the content.

I can't think of any down side to using Solution 2 just as you propose it.

  • 1
    @DaveAngler what would be the best way to handle language? en.uk.example.com or uk.example.com/en/ ?
    – AlGallaf
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 19:38
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    But it is not limited to localized version of text. UK volkwagen and France volkwagen is different content - different cars and different pictures. How would a French speaker see the UK cars and a English speaker see the French cars - they are not the same cars.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 20:03
  • That's a good point @Blam - the design of the API itself is an important part of UX design. Developers are users too. :) The structure of the website should match regardless if the content matches. Even if there is no content for one of the locales the page should load and say so (though there wouldn't be any direct links to it so normal everyday users would never see it)
    – DaveAlger
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 20:19
  • Cool I don't mean to argue but it is not that easy. If I sell fishing equipment I am not even going to have a link to ice fishing on a Saudi site. The number of cars sold in UK is not likely to match the number in FR. The size of the pictures is not going to match. I am glad to hear a UX person say developers are users too but most UX people don't seem to care about making my life easier. Even a site like Shimano bicycle that sells the same stuff worldwide has different layouts.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 20:40

You confuse site language with content

The language of the site is the functional language of the site.
Menus, instructions, buttons are all in my selected language / culture
It is more than just language - GB has different currency than US but share the same language

In the facebook example www.facebook.com/VolkswagenUK and www.facebook.com/volkswagenfrance are different content but the primary language of my facebook did not change. I would not want the menus to change to French just because of a link to content in French.

I would expect the site language of all of these to be french:

If specific content is in another language then that is function of the content.

Even Shimano bicycle that sells the same components world wide does not have a single layout where they just plug in local language.

A French speaker may want to view content VolkswagenUK
And and English speaker my want to view content VolkswagenFR
Neither user wants the language of the menus to change

I am a developer and localization of text and format (time / currency) is typically only valid for a very generic applications. Even some languages just don't layout the same. I work with an application that is sold into both legal and engineering and we have different UI for the two as the users just don't think the same. Different cultures react differently.


you should use solution 1&3, because it's depends on your domain , eg in Australia and most company have .com.au but they buy the .com as well, you probably why they do this ! and in uk as well like your case, so we have www.example.com.uk/volkswagen for the company then if you want to have .com as well in your company, i think the best approach is to have this name www.example.com/uk/volkswagen, why ? because user especially in those country which companies use .com.character country code learn country code will go at the end( like me in Australia)

conclusion: solution1 and 3 is best practise

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