Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's in a name? Choosing the best web addresses for government

The other day I absentmindedly typed in 'victoria.gov.au' to go to the Victorian state government's main site.

However I was surprised when my browser threw up an error, saying there was no such site.

I realised my mistake, it should have been vic.gov.au instead, however this got me thinking about all those people in Australia and overseas who would expect to type 'victoria' to find Victoria, rather than 'vic' and not have the experience that I do to find the right location.

I did a check on other states, from Western Australia to New South Wales, and found that in every case the state abbreviation was the only address accepted to get to the state portals.

In every case I received an error like this one (for tasmania.gov.au):



Given the small cost of registering another .gov.au address and pointing it to the same location, would it not make sense to register tasmania.gov.au, victoria.gov.au and the rest rather than take the risk of people getting it wrong and being directed to the wrong website by their web browser?

3 comments:

  1. Shall have to investigate that. Perhaps the folks managing *.gov.au domains haven't allowed the states to register those URLs?

    queensland would be pretty simple ...
    what about NSW tho... newsouthwales.gov.au and/or new-south-wales.gov.au ... ? :)

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  2. Hi Ben,

    I can understand the rationale - keep all state domains consistent, and keep them short.

    However given that it's possible to map any domain to any other domain, I reckon a quick look at a search engine log would show how people were searching for state portals and provide insights into which domains could be registered and pointed to the current addresses.

    Given your NSW eg, I'd suggest registering both (and pointing them to nsw.gov.au)

    It's the all roads are right principle.

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  3. In my experience, those managing the gov.au domain were pretty stingy. Maybe registering two domains was just too much hard work after the struggle to get one up. To be fair, the departmental politics were worse than than the registrar politics, but it should be such a simple thing. Bureaucracy beats common sense 9 times out of 10.

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