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Here is the summary of the contents of the website:

  • There is a single page for every business per country.
  • Every single page is available in different languages.
  • There are users that can log in to review said businesses.
  • Businesses are created and managed by the admins, not users.
  • Users have profile pages.
  • Our website has about, contact, and blog pages.
  • Two businesses will not have the same name in one country.
  • Selling point of the website is the businesses.

Basically, we need anything after the domain url to be available for businesses:

website.com/mcdonalds
website.com/mercedes
website.com/toyota
website.com/about
website.com/users

about and users would be legitimate business names, not our own pages. We need to structure the url in a way so that businesses would be able to advertise their pages as website.com/businessname just like on Twitter and Facebook. If it was the only business with such name in the database, then it would simply redirect to that business and show its page (say if it was in canada): website.com/ca/businessname. If there were more than one business with the same name, it would redirect to the business located in the user's country and ask to confirm if the user wanted said business of that location, otherwise, it would present the user with a list of businesses with the same name in different countries. If the user's location could not be found, then the user would immediately be presented with a list of businesses of the same name in several countries.

Our own webpages would be like so:

about.website.com/company
about.website.com/press
about.website.com/blog

Users would be like so:

users.website.com/johndoe
users.website.com/janedoe
users.website.com/login <<login page

For the login, we'll also have website.com/login automatically redirect to users.website.com/login until a business named login will exist. Then, it would go to the business page, but ask "did you mean to go to the login page?" subtly if the user accessed it directly through the url.

With multilingual pages, the urls would be like so:

Businesses: en.website.com/mcdonalds

Our Pages: en.about.website.com/company

Users: en.users.website.com/johndoe

Would it be bad or "ugly" to have nested subdomains? What would be a good alternative for making the urls show the languages in a good way?


Obviously this whole debacle would be solved if the urls were to simply be structured like so:

fr.website.com/ca/toyota
en.website.com/us/toyota
en.website.com/users/johndoe
en.website.com/login
en.website.com/about
en.website.com/press
en.website.com/blog

The problem would be that when users put their urls next to other social media it would be like so (it will be in a subdirectory unlike the others):

facebook.com/toyota_ca
twitter.com/ca_toyota
website.com/ca/toyota

Also without the users subdomain, we would have to take away login, about, and blog from the business names.

Research done on famous websites shows that Facebook and Twitter simply don't allow users to register "login". They took away a couple of the pages they wanted to have for themselves. Also, Twitter uses GET variables for their languages, which is not good practice.


I apologize for the messy question. Feel free to edit to make the question better: What should we do? What would be the best option to go with in terms of structure?

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If there are two businesses named "ACME" (one from USA, one from Germany), why would they want to advertise their URL as /acme and not as /us/acme and /de/acme?
The US business would know that users coming from Germany looking for their business would end up at the unrelated DE business, which would be some form of "advertisement" they most likely don’t intend nor tolerate (they advertised to make people aware of another business). And even if there are no other same-named businesses now, there could be in the future.

So businesses understanding your URL architecture would certainly want to use the final URLs (i.e., including the country) in their advertisements.

So unless you want to forbid same-named businesses, omit URLs for businesses that don’t include a country code. Then your URL architecture would be:

  • /
  • /blog
  • /blog/<…>
  • /company
  • /login
  • /press
  • /users
  • /users/<user-name>
  • /<cc>/<business-name>

The language code could then be specified in a subdomain, like it’s the case with Wikipedia, too. Possibly redirecting the variant without subdomain to the user’s language (but, of course, allowing to change language manually).

  • I just thought it would be high quality (looks REALLY good) if we could provide businesses with direct urls and take care of helping the users get to said businesses automatically, you know? Besides, a business such as McDonald's wouldn't care much, since they're so big and would boast with their number of branches and care to show the consistent quality assurance of their business. – yaharga Mar 12 '15 at 19:26
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    @yaharga: Yes, I also think the business URL /acme is more beautiful than /us/acme. However, this comes at a cost: Either disallow other businesses with the same name (e.g., same-named business have to add something to their name, like it’s the case with Facebook/Twitter/Wikipedia/etc., too, e.g. /acme-new-york, /acme-auto-repair, /acme_(New_York) etc.), or hope that businesses don’t mind advertising for other businesses if visitors have a different IP. – unor Mar 12 '15 at 19:34
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This is more of an implementation question but I'll try and answer the UX portion as best I can.

It really doesn't matter what the URL looks like as long as it's consistent.

I like that you are thinking about this problem as clean URLs make nicer looking bookmarks and are easier for developers to understand though most users won't even notice the URL.

As long as a user can read the content on the page I doubt they will care which URL format you choose. If the user can't read the content then they will need a clear path to change it to something they can read but an intuitive URL string isn't the place to do this.

Having more than one subdomain is perfectly fine

Using multiple subdomains is not only okay but it's also the only thing that will show up when using the iPhone Safari browser.

For example, http://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikip%C3%A9dia:Accueil_principal shows up as fr.m.wikipedia.org on an iPhone.

The Google TV browser doesn't even show the URL address bar until you explicitly ask for it to pop-up in a separate dialog where you can change it.

Chances are good that the company name at the end of the URL won't even be seen by most users since the majority of us use mobile devices now.

The bottom line is don't rely on the URL to communicate information to the end user.

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