Sunday, October 30, 2005

Year 2005: The URL Still Matters

Like many, I am spending a lot of time behind my computer. As a consequence, I sometime need a little break. A few days ago this took the form of going for some "store browsing". Of course, those are online stores I am talking about!

So here I am at the Apple Store, hopping from a shinny PowerBook to the new iPod Video, when the picture of a product that looks interestingly out of place got my attention: a questionably fashionable pink leather case for iPod. What was that doing there? I clicked on the link and while the page was loading reflected on how this was the ultimate proof that the iPod became mainstream. By now I had on screen a page from just on the Kate Spade Leather Case for iPod. Frankly, how could I resist sending this page to a carefully selected audience? That is when my trouble started.

The link to that page was certainly odd looking:

What is this "1-800-MY-APPLE" doing in there? And what about this random looking sequence of letters and numbers? Without worrying too much about it, I sent that link and... started receiving complaints: "That link does not work for me!"

Apple certainly understands marketing, but does not understand a facet of social marketing: if Jane recommends a product to her friend Mark, Mark is much more likely to buy it. And a simple way for Jane to do this is to just email the link to that product she wants to recommend. So why prevent this behavior?

A URL to a product should be permanent. What I see in the URL field should look more like and anyone going to the same page should see the same URL.

Apple, repeat after me: we are in 2005, and the URL still matters. And please, don't consider the URL as just additional real estate that you can use to advertise 1-800-MY-APPLE, a direct line to your sales team.

1 comment:

  1. Probably Apple is trying to inject user/marketing data into the link. I think companies need to focus on the user experience and less on the metrics. And if you really must, then use some kind of meta-url scheme like tinyurl but with permanent links -- and save us from doing this step and keep your metrics in the back somewhere. Or, what about parameters to a permanent link, and let us opte out of your metrics scheme (where the ?... is optional). But then it would be just a URL again and not this marketing/metric machination it has been turned into. (I tell you I more than eyeballs, I am human) --Hank