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9:3 Use Descriptive Headings Liberally

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 5 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Topic:

Headings, Titles, and Labels


Guideline:

Use descriptive headings liberally throughout a Web site.


Comments:

Well-written headings are an important tool for helping users scan quickly. Headings should conceptually relate to the information or functions that follow them.

Headings should provide strong cues that orient users and inform them about page organization and structure. Headings also help classify information on a page. Each heading should be helpful in finding the desired target.

The ability to scan quickly is particularly important for older adults because they tend to stop scanning and start reading more frequently. If headings are not descriptive or plentiful enough, the user may start reading in places that do not offer the information they are seeking, thereby slowing them down unnecessarily.


Sources:

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  • Flower, L., Hayes, J.R., & Swarts, H. (1983). Revising function documents: The scenario principle. In P. Anderson, J. Brockmann, & C. Miller (Eds.), New Essays in Technical and Scientific Communication: Research, Theory, and Practice (pp. 41-58). Farmingdale, NY: Baywood.
  • Gerhardt-Powals, J. (1996). Cognitive engineering principles for enhancing human-computer performance. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 8(2), 189-211.
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  • Ivory, M.Y., Sinha, R.R., & Hearst, M.A. (2000, June). Preliminary findings on quantitative measures for distinguishing highly rated information-centric web pages. Proceedings of the 6th Conference on Human Factors and the Web. Retrieved November 2005, from http://www.tri.sbc.com/hfweb/ivory/paper.html.
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Good Example:

Spending time during the design process to ensure that the site contains many carefully written headings and sub-headings will save users time as they rapidly locate the information for which they are searching.

09_03_good_example