Document titles and title separators

I came across an interesting discussion on title separators the other day: What's your favourite blip? at The Man in Blue. It made me start thinking about document titles and separators.

I posted a comment with my take on the matter over at The Man in Blue, but I'll state it here as well. This is not something I feel very strongly about, so if anyone has seen some research on what the best title separator is from accessibility and usability perspectives, please share, and I'm willing to reconsider my ways if necessary.

Some time (almost two years) ago I came across a similar discussion at Holovaty.com: Page titles on news article pages. Much of what is written there makes sense to me.

I like and use the pipe/vertical bar, | , for most sites. I also reverse the order in the title:

document title | category | site name

or just

document title | site name

depending on the context and importance of the document. Sometimes having the whole "crumbtrail" in the title can be good, but often it just gets in the way, and reducing it to the document title and site name is better. That's what I do here, since I figure there is very little benefit of knowing that this document is in the "Archive" section.

I think reversing the order of items in the title makes bookmarks, browser windows and tabs easier to keep track of, especially if you have many tabs in your browser window. If more than one bookmark or tab lead to the same site, I find having the document title first is more helpful than repeating the site name several times. I also have a feeling that search engines like it.

One exception is the home page, where I normally use just "site name" or "site name | some blurb".

As for title separators, whatever you choose to use, read it out loud to get some feel for what screen reader users will hear. I know I wouldn't want to listen to page title minus colon colon minus section title minus colon colon minus site name or the result of some similar fancy separators made up of several characters.

What's your take on document titles and title separators? Can you see any problems with the way I'm doing it? I'm open to any suggestions for improvement.

Posted on October 19, 2004 in Usability, Search Engine Optimisation, Accessibility