Re: Arguments for Use of Legitimate Heading Tags

Count me among the nobody. 

Accessibility issues aside, using proper headings allows me to easily
apply styles (OK, you can do it with span but why work harder to do
things the wrong way to achieve the same effect?), break up large
documents into smaller chunks using scripts, generate a table of
contents, etc. This has nothing to do with the end users, of course -
these are just benefits to me as the guy who has to generate and
maintain the HTML. 

It also helps me to understand the structure of a document. Using span,
I can see what I did to a section of text. With headings, I can more
easily see why. More importantly, I can use enforced document structure
to go back to whoever created a document and get them to rewrite it in a
way that makes sense. Are there times when a document really can't work
with logical headings? Sure. But 95% of the time it's just a badly
organized document. And if I have to go back to an author (which happens
quite frequently), it's easier on me, and on that author's ego, if I
place the blame on need to conform to the structured nature of proper
HTML than on the author's bad writing. Even if my argument is BS, it
just works.

Of course, any time your HTML is being read by a machine (for purposes
other than display) proper logical markup will probably help. Search
engines should, for example, give greater weight to terms in headings
than in the main text. Whether they do or not depends on the search
engine. Any kind of repurposing of your content will probably be

Oh, and as far as navigating by headings goes,  it's screen readers
today, PDAs and other web-enabled devices with limited screen space
tomorrow. And standard web browsers the next day. Sometimes pulling up a
list of headings is just a better way.

>>> "Jerry Weichbrodt" <> 05/09/03
12:32PM >>>
Hi all.  Now that screen readers for the blind are incorporating the
ability to navigate a document by headings, I have become a real
advocate for proper use of headings rather than just using large or
bolded text to create something that looks visually like a heading.  I
was discussing the virtues of headings with a web developer in-house who
has become pretty enthusiastic about web usability and such.  When I
mentioned using real headings and then tailoring them to the developer's
desires visually using stylesheets, she said, "Boy, that's going to take
a lot of re-work since practically *nobody* uses HTML heading tags." We
discussed how small a group blind people were within the company and
whether it would be hard to sell folks on starting to use real headings
rather than just marking up span tags just to serve that minuscule
group.  So, it comes down to this:  I'm wondering who besides screen
reader users benefits from the use of real heading tags in documents. 
I'd be interested in this group's thoughts.


Received on Friday, 9 May 2003 14:34:55 UTC