Web Page Names and Naming Conventions

web page nameWhen deciding on a name for your web pages there are certain guidelines that you need to follow and certain conventions that you need to be aware of.

Here we will look at:

  • Home Page Name
  • Choosing a web Page extension .htm, .html etc
  • Individual page names
  • WordPress Page names

Home Page Name

The Home page is a special page as it is usually the page that most visitors use to enter your website.

Home pages file names are by convention either:

  • index.htm or index.html
  • home.htm or home.html
  • default.htm or default.html
  • index.php  (WordPress)

Most hosting providers will support all, and any of them.

On conventional html web sites I use index.htm or index.html.

However when visiting the home page of a web site it is rare to use the page name.

Instead you simply use the domain name, and the web server will present the home page automatically.

Thus typing

www.build-your-website.co.uk

is the same as typing

www.build-your-website.co.uk/index.htm.

To access any other page on a website you must specify the page name in the url.

This video show how the home page works

Web Page File Extensions and Case

File extensions are used on Microsoft operating systems i.e. Windows to associate a file with an application e.g. a .doc extensions associates the file with Microsoft Word, a .txt with Notepad a .htm with Internet Explorer.

Unix or Mac systems don’t use file extensions like windows, but even on these systems file extensions have become norm.

The use of file extensions has carried over to the Internet, and the common convention for standard web pages on windows systems is .htm and on Unix/Linux systems is .html.

Although you can use either extension on both systems.

Also, on the Internet the file extension is used to differentiate a normal HTMLweb page from a script like PHP or Active sever Pages.

Even on UNIX or Linux, which don’t strictly speaking use the file extension internally, it has become convention to use the file extension for deciding on how to process web pages.

If a  web server sees a .php file it will have it processed by a php interpreter before sending it to the browser, if it sees a .htm or html file it just sends it as is.

Which extension you use is really up to you, but I prefer .htm because it is shorter. Regardless of your choice it is important to remain consistent with all Web pages on your site.

There are many other file extensions in use on the Internet like: php, asp, xhtml, pl, cgi, exe, gif, jpg  etc ( see other file extensions ).

It is important to use the correct file extension so that the pages are processed correctly by the web server and the web browser.

Web Page Case Sensitivity

Microsoft operating systems are case insensitive which means that INDEX.HTM and index.htm are the same file. Windows systems do however preserve case.

UNIX/Linux systems are case sensitive and so INDEX.HTM and index.htm are two completely different files.

It is common on the Internet to capitalise the first letter of each word in a page name and so a page called web page name would be:

Web-Page-Name.htm or Web-Page-Name.html

As you may be unaware of the type of operating system your host is using or you may decide to move hosts in the future treat all files as if they were case sensitive.

Individual Web Page Names and SEO

The web page name should incorporate the web page keywords, not just because it may improve the ranking, but also because it gives the page meaning to yourself when editing, and the potential visitor when he sees the page name in a link.

Generally, the web page name should be either the same or very much like the page title with dashes separating the words instead of spaces.

So if the web page title is Web Page Names the page name would be web-page-names.

WordPress Web Page Names

WordPress doesn’t use conventional web page extensions for page names. On WordPress web pages names are:

  • Lower case
  • Don’t have extensions
  • Have dashes to separate words
  • Used only if Pretty permalinks have been enabled otherwise page numbers are used.
  • Created from the Page title by default, but can be changed.
  • Look like directory names.

Note: be careful with WordPress names as they are auto generated from the title and often need manually editing. See Understanding WordPress page and post titles

The actual WordPress home page is index.php and is the only real page on the WordPress site.

All other WordPress pages are stored in the WordPress database and don’t have a physical file associated with them. See- How WordPress Works

Changing Web Page Names

Generally try to avoid changing page names as it can effect your web page ranking, and result in Page Not Found errors.

If you decide that you need to change a page name then you should do a page redirect from the old page to the new page.

For WordPress sites I recommend you install and use the redirection plugin.

Web Page Names and SEO

It is very likely that web pages names are used as a ranking criteria by search engines which is why you should use the page keywords in the page name. See How search engines Work.

Common Questions and Answers

Q- Can I use spaces in web page names?

A- Yes but you shouldn’t.

Q- What characters are valid for a filename?

A- The filename must be valid on the system you are using and must also use valid characters for a URL. It is best not to use any special characters but only A-Z,0-9 and the dash and underscore character. See this article

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