Page titles: accessibility for content authors

  • Author: Access iQ ®
  • Date: 26 Nov 2012
  • Access: Premium

Accessible page titles are important not only for users of screen readers, but also for marketing managers who want to increase the presence of their website on search engines.

The page title is what appears at the top of your browser window and is represented by the <title> element in HTML. Page titles have many functions, some of which are more obvious than others.

Page titles are primarily used for context and to help users determine where they are in relation to other sections of the website. In most web browsers, the page title appears at the top of the window tile.

Success Criterion 2.4.2 Page titled states:

Webpages have titles that describe topic or purpose. (Level A)

What you put into the page title, or text marked up with the <title> element will give you an idea of where you are on the website and of what information is contained on that page. For sighted and non-sighted users alike, the page title is an important indicator of where they are when several tabs are open in a single browser window.

A function of the page title that may not be widely known is the importance it has in search results and ranking. For example, Google displays the page title in search results, and when links are posted on social networking sites, page titles are often displayed in the text following the link. In some cases, this is what will compel a user to click on the link because it's the only piece of information that provides an idea of the content that follows.

It's important to understand how the content management system (CMS) you use treats page titles because they are not all the same.

Page titles on some systems are automated and use the title you give to a piece of content, i.e. article headings and blog post titles marked up with the <h1> element, as the page title. This can be misleading if the article title doesn't offer a description of what the page contains. If your CMS automates page titles, find out if they can be edited so you can ensure your page title is optimised to indicate where a user is in relation to other sections of your website, and to give context for search engine ranking and results.

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