Blog Post— 7 Min Read

Yourls. An Abre Review.

We like to occasionally review technology tools that help educators and schools. Sometimes these tools intersect with Abre, sometimes not. They’re worth considering adding to a robust toolkit.

Consider the URL of the following webpage:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mztOrflmn30ZVGuPeOFS8tE4-VGt38OYDP-WMuKa58U/edit?usp=sharing

It’s long. And not easy to remember. The structure might make a little sense, but for the most part, the human mind isn’t meant to remember rambling URLs.

Fortunately, technology has provided a solution in the form of URL shorteners.

What’s a URL Shortener?

It’s an application that takes long URLs from a domain, shortens the URL using a different domain, and automatically redirects the shortened URL to the long URL.

For example, I can take the URL of this blog post https://discover.abre.io/blog/spreadsheet-hell-an-antidote/ and, using WordPress’s URL shortener, turn it into https://wp.me/pbeehh-2bt. The internet features all kinds of URL shorteners with bit.ly and tinyurl being the most well known.

Why?

Aside from being easier to remember, short URLs provide a simple way for end users to navigate to a website. For example, when we give presentations at conferences we usually create a media rich webpage experience. Rather than having our audience try and write a big long web address (or walk them through a bunch of steps to reach a particular webpage), we create a shortened URL for them to type in to their phone or computer. Check out the webpage we created for our OEDSA presentation: https://abre.pub/oedsa.

Also, branding (more on that in a second).

Yourls

There are a good number of commercial and open-source programs that shorten URLs. One of the most popular open-source applications is Yourls. It’s free to download and install on any server and allows you to create branded shortened URLs. Most web hosting companies make the deployment of Yourls a “one click” process.

How does this work?

First, you buy a domain that’s short and quippy. Given the proliferation of top level domain names, you have a lot of options (.me, .us, .co are popular). Here at Abre we purchased abre.pub (pub short for publication) as the domain used for shortening our URLs.

Buying a related domain name allows you to brand your short links. This insures brand integrity and also helps your short links to be easy and memorable.

Installing Yourls requires you have a web server with a MySQL database. This sounds a little complicated, but all the big name hosting companies have a control panel where you can pick what applications you want to deploy. Installing Yourls is literally:

  1. Browsing to the application
  2. Clicking install
  3. Defining what folder to install the application
  4. Setting up an admin username and password

Easy peasy.

How Can Schools Use Yourls?

Schools send out lots of letters with website addresses. Yourls allows educators to take very long webpage addresses and make them easy for parents to type in their browser.

For example, a superintendent might want to emphasize a change in board policy concerning the use of Cell Phones in the school. Rather than sending this URL home in the letter:

http://go.boarddocs.com/oh/someschooldist/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AKFTER756502;

they can send this instead: wildcats.us/cellphones.

Curious to Learn More?

Check out Yourls’ project: https://yourls.org.