Sub-headers are navigationPosted October 22nd, 2008 by David Hamill
Using good sub-headers will help your users find the information they are looking for. It’s like navigation but without the clicking and the cool roll-over effects.
Sub-headers help users decide whether to stay
Your web pages will not be read word for word. In many cases your user is looking for a single piece of information. He’s actually still navigating. If he sees a page of text without sub-headers he may do one of three things:
- If he’s on the right page he might:
- spend longer than necessary trying to find the information he needs
- lose the scent, decide he’s on the wrong page and leave.
- If he’s on the wrong page he might take a long time working this out.
Sub-headers will help him make quick decisions in all three of these cases.
A good sub-header describes the text below it
A page with well-named sub-headers will help users find the paragraph they need. This is because they summarise the text below them. So a user scanning the page will quickly read the sub-headers and stop at the one they need. Either this or they quickly realise the page does not have what they need.
Sub-headers help screen readers
Screen readers like JAWS allow their user the ability to navigate through a page via the identified headers in the HTML. In these instances your sub-headers literally are navigation. People using such software will have a better experience if you spend some time thinking about your sub-headers.
It’s also a good reason for using the proper HTML code for your headers.
Try writing your sub-headers first
A good way to focus your writing is to jot down the key questions your user has when reading the page. You can then use these questions as sub-headers and then write your copy underneath each. If you begin to stray off the topic of the sub-header then it might be unnecessary text. Consider removing it or writing another sub-heading.
Improve further with bold text
You can make your paragraph even easier to understand by using bold text on the important words within the paragraph. This way your user can find the answer to their question even more easily.