Headings and document structure conclusions

Back in January I asked for opinions on Headings, heading hierarchy, and document outlines, hoping for a discussion that could lead to a conclusive recommendation.

Unfortunately it seems very difficult to reach consensus on this topic. However, with input from the discussion in the comments on that post, along with private discussions via email and face-to-face, I see two options:

  1. Use headings for both document and site structure.
  2. Use headings only for the structure of the actual content, and use WAI-ARIA landmark roles for anything outside the content area.

Let me try to explain my reasoning.

Use headings for both document and site structure

The reasons are as follows:

Use headings only for document structure and WAI-ARIA for other sections

The other option is to use h1-h6 headings only within the actual content of a document, and use WAI-ARIA Document Structure and Landmark roles to demarcate different navigational sections like top or main navigation, left or secondary navigation and footer navigation.

This has the advantage of focusing the heading structure on the content itself. A few possible issues:

Still no single, perfect solution

There appears to be no single perfect solution that will end all discussion regarding headings and document outlines, but the two options I describe here make the most sense to me. My personal preference is to use headings for both document and site structure, but that is subject to change.

And, as with any problem that has more than one possible solution, I don’t expect everybody to agree :-).

Posted on November 10, 2009 in Accessibility, (X)HTML