[map]A Site Structure Pattern from
Patterns for Personal Web Sites

Private Entrance

A Web site is by definition is a public space: anyone can visit. However, sometimes you might want to present different faces to different audiences of your site (for example, professional vs. activist). How can you provide material to one audience but not another?

A technological solution is to use server access restrictions to give a password to certain material. However, this is rather unfriendly, since it lets people know that your site contains material they can't access. It's better that most visitors don't know it exists.

Therefore, to make material available only to a certain audience, don't link to it from your public pages.

A private entrance is a secret doorway into your site. You can have as many of these as you need; for example, one describing your activist interests, another for members of a private mailing list, etc. Each private entrance can be tailored with information specific to its audience, such as your thoughts on a specific topic, as well as links to parts of your site relevant to that topic.

Private entrances are by nature temporary; secrets have a way of becoming known. Sooner or later, your private entrance will become public, despite your best efforts to keep the URL secret. Aside from human leakage, the URL of a private entrance can escape through means you can't anticipate. (For example, an offsite link from a private page can reveal that page's existence through the HTTP Referer header. If the destination site posts logs publicly, then the private entrance's URL could be disclosed.) There's little you can do about this, short of being prepared to move or rename the private entrance once its URL become public.

It's also important that directories containing private entrances have Default Pages, to avoid inadvertent disclosure of the private entrances' existence.

A Cover Page is similar to a private entrance, but is intentionally public.

A Secret Garden is the structural opposite of a private entrance.

Last updated 8 July 2003
All contents ©2002-2003 Mark L. Irons