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Writing for the web

Structuring your content

Make your headings descriptive and clear.

They should let your user know that they have found the content they are looking for.

 

Do not use anything other than heading formats to define sections of content.

Assistive technologies rely on heading formats to make content accessible. Search engines use heading formats to understand page structure and the relative importance of content.

Heading formats are H1s, H2s, H3s and so on. They are a formatting that is applied through the content management system.

Do not use bold, underlining or italicisation to define sections of content.

Writing effective headings and page titles

Put the most important information at the start of your heading.

Headings that quickly identify an action or the intended audience for your content are most effective. Phrase your headings as statements rather than questions.

Users will typically read just the first 11 characters (roughly the first 2 words) of a heading before making a decision whether to continue reading.

For example:

✔ Moving in to your accommodation

✘ When can I move in to my accommodation?

✔ Enrol on a course

✘ How to complete your course enrolment

 

The first 11 characters have been highlighted. Do these headings help users find the information they are after?

Find out how front-loading content aids users to scan web content in this article from the Nielsen Norman Group.

Writing effective subheadings

Do not use subheadings as a tagline to your heading.

A user should understand the story of your page just from reading the subheadings. Subheadings should tell a user what content to expect if they kept reading.

Users will likely scan the subheadings to help confirm that the page includes the information they are seeking. 

Use subheadings to organise your content.

Break content down into chunks around related themes and order them to match the user journey or in order of priority to your audience.

Give these content chunks descriptive subheadings which:

  • Describe all, and only, the topics in the chunk
  • Frontload the important information
  • Are clear and scannable
  • Are written in sentence case.

For example:

✔ Careers support

✘ Your career starts here...

✔ Accommodation at York St John University

✘ Make yourself at home

✔ Access Wellbeing support

✘ Register for a Session with a Wellbeing Advisor

Find out how effective use of subheadings can help users find the information they need in this article from the Nielsen Norman Group.