A friendly URL (Mass.Gov/brandname) is a marketing tool used to promote a service or program. The URL brings customers to a specific portal or sub-portal page that either contains information about the service or provides access to the service.

Mass.Gov offers two types of friendly URLs: top level URLs and virtual friendly URLs.

A friendly URL (Mass.Gov/brandname) should be thought of as a brand name, not a web address. Although you will use it to bring customers directly to a page on your website, its most important use is to promote your agency, service or program so that customers will associate the name with your organization, service or program.

Friendly URLs can be selected for your organization's homepage, or agency landing pages, as well as for services or programs. It is often more meaningful to the public to select names that indicate what your organization is about, rather than abbreviations, initials or the actual agency name.

Several agencies have chosen descriptive names to bring customers to their homepage. Consumer Affairs uses and promotes the web address www.mass.gov/consumer and Environmental Affairs uses www.mass.gov/envir.

Direct customers to your Agency's homepage instead?

When deciding to use a friendly URL for a service or program, consider the advantage of simply directing customers to your homepage, even if it takes one or two clicks to get to the actual service or program that you are promoting. This is an advantage because the customer awareness of all of your agency's offerings will increase. Furthermore, if an important program or service is not easily found on your site, you should question whether your information architecture/site navigation needs to be reviewed and/or revised.

Policy prerequisites or dependencies

Friendly URLs should only be used to promote your most important services or programs, which means that the friendly URL should redirect to pages expected to receive at least 3000 visitors per month.

When choosing a name, select a name that could be used as a brand name. Choose a name that:

  • customers will associate with your agency, service or program, and
  • is relatively short, simple, meaningful and easy to spell, and
  • customers will easily remember, and
  • does not have another strong meaning in the marketplace

When choosing a name, consider whether other government organizations might also use this name. For top level friendly URLs, Mass.Gov will not approve names that could be used effectively by more than one organization or that could more appropriately be handled as virtual directory friendly URLs.

Standard

Portalized agencies: The destination URL for your friendly URL request must be a portal or sub-portal page. If an agency needs to link outside of Mass.Gov (to an application, for example), they should create a page on their sub-portal that explains the service, then link to the application. Or, if the agency needs to link to a quasi or other type of site, they should link to a page that explains the program or service and who provides it, then link to the page.

Non-portalized agencies: Destination URL must be to a page that is Mass.Gov branded, either by a banner or Mass.Gov logo.

When?

Both top level URLs and virtual directory URLS are modified every Wednesday afternoon, between 1:00pm and 3:00pm. To ensure your URL is enabled in time, please submit your request no later than Friday of the previous week. If this timeframe doesn't fit your schedule, simply create a temporary "coming soon" page that can be replaced with your actual content.

Why?

Usability: Customer may be confused by a mass.gov/url which takes them to some other site that doesn't look a thing like Mass.Gov. Customers don't know what to do when they get to the page.

Marketability: Agencies need to have a page that explains the service so that someone that is on your site has sufficient information.

Reliability: Precaution to make sure people can rely on Mass.Gov/friendly as an official site. Customers eventually will know that without Mass.Gov it may not be an official site. Prevents website spoofing such as the scam RMV website which charged users fraudulent fees.

Branding: Mass.Gov brand name can only be used by a site that is branded Mass.Gov, either by banner or Mass.Gov logo.


Information provided by the Information Technology Division, Mass.Gov Office. Last reviewed: June 10, 2009.