Headings

Recommendations

Headings need to be descriptive and specific, not generic.

People scan a page and often look at headings first. They decide if they are on the right page or not by your headings. The 'right page' is whether they are going to get their answer or not.

The H1 heading is what people will see in the search results.
It is the first interaction you will have with your audience and will determine if they are going to give you more than 3 seconds of their time. Use it wisely.
Be clear, concise and to the point. Action-orientated headings work well.

Front-loading headings

At Content Design London we advocate statements rather than questions in headings and putting the keyword first, where possible. Reason is: if people are scanning down a page it's faster if you put the word people are looking for at the front of the sentence. If you lead with a question, you can't front-load, you have to start with who, what, when, where, why. This takes time for our audience to read.

Example:

"Should you front-load your headings?"

"Front-load your headings."

You get to the essentials of the information much faster with the second heading.

Page structure

Using headings gives your page structure and hierarchy. If you take all the user needs for a journey, work out the channel, format and page, you can structure those needs into headings on the page to indicate importance or process.

Example:

Title: apply for a thing
Subheads: eligibility, application, if something goes wrong, appeal

In the example above, you can see the whole process you need to, or can, go through.

Amusing headings

Headings can reflect a tone and can be engaging.
Play-on-words, idioms and colloquialisms can all be hard to decipher for those with English as a second language or reading challenges. Understanding the value of the content, the channel it is on and the audience you are trying to reach is important when choosing what type of heading to use.

Usability evidence

Writing killer web headings and links Gerry McGovern, 2009
Headings are pick up lines: 5 tips for writing headings that convert Neilson Norman Group
F-shaped pattern for reading web content discovered First F-shaped pattern study by Jakob Neilson, Neilson Norman Group, 2006. Updated with different reading patterns, 2017.
First 2 Words: A Signal for the Scanning Eye Jakob Neilson, Neilson Norman Group, 2006

According to Luke Wroblewski's twitter post, 11% of people start scrolling in 4 seconds if the page has loaded. 9 seconds if it hasn't. Luke writes more about scrolling, and concludes with a quote from Josh Porter: "Scrolling is a continuation; clicking is a decision."

'Scrolling and attention' Neilson Norman Group
How to use headings on your site, Yoast
Create good titles and snippets in Search Results, Google Webmasters

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