The Importance of Heading Structure in Website Design

I’ve looked at and audited tons of websites and one thing I see over and over again is a lack of an organized heading structure. The biggest mistake I see on these websites is headings being used for design rather than structure. A good heading structure in a website is important for several reasons. But first, let’s talk about what a heading structure is.

The best way to think about a websites heading structure is like a roadmap of the website that provides an organized outline of the pages main and sub-topics. It refers to the organization of headings or header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.). A well-defined heading structure normally follows a logical order, with the H1 representing the primary focus of the page.

Following is an example of a poor heading structure.

Now that we have a better understanding of what a heading structure is, let’s dive into how it benefits your website and users.

Enhancing Website Accessibility with Proper Heading Structure

When you spend the time creating a well-structured and organized heading hierarchy, you significantly enhance the accessibility of your website, particularly for users who depend on screen readers or other assistive technologies. Headings provide a logical outline of the content, increasing comprehension and providing clearer navigation. Screen reader users can navigate through the headings to get an overview of the page’s structure and quickly jump to the sections that interest them.

How heading structure affects SEO

Search engines also use heading tags to understand the structure and hierarchy of the content on your page. By analyzing the hierarchy of the headings, search engines can determine the relevance and context of the different sections within your page. This helps them understand the main topic and subtopics covered, improving their ability to match the page with relevant search terms.

Improving User Experience with well-structured header hierarchy

If we’re being honest, most of us scan websites and documents to save time. Well-organized headings improve a user’s ability to scan your pages to determine if the information is relevant to them. By presenting a logical structure, headings help users navigate the website efficiently and find relevant information quickly, providing a positive browsing experience overall.

Examples of improper and proper heading structure

Here is an example of poorly structured headings.

  • H1: Welcome to ABC Services
  • H2: Our Services
  • H3: Service 1
  • H4: Service 2
  • H4: Service 3
  • H3: About Us
  • H3: Contact Us

In this example, the heading structure doesn’t have the proper hierarchy and organization. The H1 heading simply welcomes visitors to the website without providing a clear indication of the main focus of the page. And, the subsequent headings are inconsistently assigned with no real value to search engines or users.

Here’s what that same business might look like with an organized heading structure.

  • H1: ABC Services – Your Trusted Local Service Provider
  • H2: Services
    • H3: Service 1
    • H3: Service 2
    • H3: Service 3
  • H2: About Us
  • H2: Contact Us

The improved heading structure provides a clear and organized outline of the page’s main topics and subtopics, making it easier for both users and search engines to understand the content and navigate the website effectively. The H1 heading establishes the main focus of the page, incorporating the business name and a description or purpose of the website. The H2, “Services” heading, acts as a section header for the different services provided by the business. Each service is then represented by an H3, ensuring a consistent and logical subheading structure.

The “About Us” section is given its own H2 heading, helping users to easily learn more about the business, and finally, the “Contact Us” section also has its own H2 heading, making it quickly identifiable and accessible for users who want to get in touch with the business.

Ultimately, your heading structure helps to organize content into sections and sub-sections, making it easier for both users and search engines to understand the main topics and subtopics covered on the page. This creates a logical flow and improved readability, contributing to both better SEO and an enhanced user experience.

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