I was at Computerworld.com the other day when I noticed the site's elegant and usable URL/breadcrumb navigation schemes. In a Web full of gibberish URLs (such as this example), "smart" and hackable URLs are always a breath of fresh air.
On Computerworld.com, the URLs are written in plain English and convey a hierarchy -- for example, computerworld.com / departments / management / casestudies gets you to the "Case studies" page of the Management section, which is a subsection of Departments. Beautiful. When I loaded that page, I instantly knew where I was within the site tree.
And as if that weren't enough, Computerworld.com uses supplementary breadcrumb navigation that, on most content pages, echoes the URL word-for-word. Thus, in the above "Case studies" example, you'll see "Home > Departments > Management > Case Studies". This is an example to follow. (And it's very easy to do with Apache's mod_rewrite, which, in fact, I use on this very site.)
On a related note, I came across a good kuro5hin discussion on this topic, which linked to this smart-URLed version of the King James Bible. The Electric King James Bible, as it's called, lets you type a book, chapter and verse in the URL to get the respective Bible passage, like so: http://bible.conman.org/kj/Exodus.20:3-17. What a brilliant idea! There has to be an application for news sites here somewhere. Perhaps, to follow up on my recent post about easy-to-remember permanent links, a site might try something like this: newssite.com/us-china-trade/monday-wednesday might get you a page of all the stories about U.S.-China trade that were published between last Monday and Wednesday, inclusive.