Web Accessibility: Providing Descriptive Titles for Web Pages

The objective of this technique is to give each Web page a descriptive title. Descriptive titles help users find content, orient themselves within it, and navigate through it. A descriptive title allows a user to easily identify what Web page they are using and to tell when the Web page has changed.
W3C Working Group Note

Having a descriptive title for web pages is vital for many reasons, but according to the W3C Working Group Note, it is especially important in regards to web accessibility practices and guidelines.

A title for a web page should adhere to the following three standards:

  • Identify the subject of the Web page
  • Make sense when read out of context
  • Be short

Additionally, the following things are helpful to keep in mind when titling web pages:

  • Identify the site or other resource to which the Web page belongs
  • Be unique within the site or other resource to which the Web page belongs

At first, meeting these standards and suggestions might seem a little daunting, but it can be simple, once the process is understood. Following these guidelines will ensure that your web pages are accessible to people using screen readers or other devices that assist with relaying the information from your web pages to the site’s visitors.

According to one of the examples listed in the W3C Working Group Note, a web page with a descriptive title should have 3 parts:

The Web page is part of a “sub-site” within a larger site. The title is separated into three parts by dashes. The first part of the title identifies the organization. The second part identifies the sub-site to which the web page belongs. The third part identifies the web page itself.

Let’s practice using the following example: You need to title a web page for a homeowner’s association web site. The homeowner’s association is known as the Spring Creek HOA. The first part of your descriptive title will include that information (Spring Creek HOA).

Following the protocol explained above, imagine that you have to title a page that is describing an annual walk that takes place in the neighborhood that is part of the HOA. A possible title that would fit the standards referenced above would be “Spring Creek HOA – Annual Walk – What to Expect”.

The title of a web page is held in the head HTML area of the site’s architecture in the <title> HTML tag. In WordPress, title template tags generate the page title automatically as set by the WordPress Theme designer. A typical example of the HTML and WordPress Template Tags looks like this:

<title><?php bloginfo('name'); ?><?php wp_title(); ?></title>

This generates the name of the site, such as ClarkWP Magazine, followed by the title of the web page article (post or Page). The parameters in the wp_title template tag permit the changing of the separator character or symbol.

When determining the accessibility factors of your web page titles, the following 3 things should be checked:

  1. Check that the Web page has a title
  2. Check that the title is relevant to the content of the Web page.
  3. Check that the Web page can be identified using the title.

It is important to note how vital having an awareness of web accessibility guidelines (like the ones in this article) is for all parties involved. It’s up to everybody to do their part by following accessibility standards whenever possible.

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