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9:4 Use Unique and Descriptive Headings

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 3 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Headings, Titles, and Labels


Use headings that are unique from one another and conceptually related to the content they describe.


Ensure that headings are descriptive and relate to the content they introduce. If headings are too similar to one another, users may have to hesitate and re-read to decipher the difference. Identifying the best headings may require extensive usability testing and other methods.


  • Bailey, R.W., Koyani, S., & Nall, J. (2000, September 7). Usability testing of several health information Web sites, National Cancer Institute Technical Report. Bethesda, MD.
  • Gerhardt-Powals, J. (1996). Cognitive engineering principles for enhancing human-computer performance. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 8(2), 189-211.
  • Morkes, J. & Nielsen, J. (1998). Applying writing guidelines to Web pages. Retrieved November 2005, from http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/rewriting.html.
  • Williams, T.R. (2000). Guidelines for designing and evaluating the display of information on the Web. Technical Communication, 47(3), 383-396.

Good Example:

These headings are well-designed - they are unique from one another and descriptive of the information to which they link.