Tuesday, January 2, 2018

ReST based Web Sites & ReSTful Navigation


ReST is highly considered as architectural pattern for integrating systems. It mainly uses APIs
point to resource and do operation on those. The URL often follows a cleaner hierarchical path pattern without much key value pairs than conventional key value pair based URL schemes. People often follow the ReST based URL format for APIs but not widely accepted for web sites.

This post aims to investigate on bringing this ReST based URL schemes to web sites similar to APIs.

Why should I do create web sites as ReSTful URLs

The same benefit of ReST based API URLs applies here as well. The URL will be easy to remember. It is easy to have separation of concerns. New features can be totally implemented separately. using their own area / virtual directories. No need to mix with existing screens even it they are related. Simple and short URLs than lengthy story telling URLs.

eg: www.mycompany.com/employeelist.aspx?empId=1 can be easily represented via

Why there are not much web sites following ReSTful pattern

One reason could be the difficulty to follow the pattern. If it is product company the development team will get more freedom to select URLs. Again if the product owners don't know what is ReST and the advantages they may influence the URL pattern. In the other side the consulting industry is heavily driven by client demands. Though regular clients may not ask for particular URLs, semi technical clients may ask.

Some tips for ReSTful web site URLS

Below are some tips to design web site URLs in resource oriented way

No operation oriented screens

The screens should be pointing to resources to display those. For example the below URL displays the employee resource.


Lists and details screens

If the URLs display the resource how to edit them? Which screen to edit those resources? The better way is to use lists and details mechanism.

If we display the resources in a list those can be edited in the same list itself and save using a button. Here the single page application (SPA) concept helps us than navigating to an edit page.

Circular navigation

If the resources have circular relation the navigation may also becomes circular.
For example, the employee page may show the department where he belongs to as hyper link. Clicing that will navigate to dept page where it lists the employees in that dept including the manager. Going to the manager page may display employees under him and clicking on the same employee's link there will end up in same employees page where we started.

Multiple navigation paths

Similarly there would be multiple navigation paths to reach one resource. For example the home page of company may show the departments and various project it is doing currently. Navigating to department as well as project may end up in same employee page.

A powerful search experience to navigate

If a resource is buried under the hierarchy, it would be difficult to find it without multiple clicks. So better to have a search mechanism where the resource can be searched and navigated on clicking the associated URLs.


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