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Why This is Important
Descriptive page titles are accessible to screen reader users and people with cognitive disabilities because it describes where they are and what they should expect from the page.
Blind and visually impaired people use screen readers to interact with websites and apps. A screen reader is a type of assistive tech that converts things on screen to audio and/or braille. It's important that things are understandable and interactive to screen readers.
Keyboard accessibility is essential for people who do not use a computer mouse (which might be because they have unpredictable or very specific movement due to a motor disability). Many Blind and visually impaired people also use keyboard interactions in order to use their screen reader.
Error support is accessible to people with a diversity of disabilities. A cognitive disability might affect how a person perceives and understands things. A physical disability might lead to unpredictable movement. Other factors such as environment, stress, and multi-tasking may also lead to errors.
In order to be accessible, gestures and interactions must account for people with physical and motor disabilities, who might have unpredictable or very specific movement.
A unique and descriptive page title is accessible to screen reader users because it lets them know where they are. Especially considering that many people today have multiple tabs open, this helps orient them in a set of pages.
This is also accessible to people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, who benefit from support and clarity.
This references WCAG criterion 2.4.2 Page Titled (Level A).
Level AAA compliance is considered more difficult to meet because it requires more resources to fulfill. It also might encompass conflicting access needs (meaning what is accessible to some might be inaccessible to others). Use your best judgment of your target audience and your team's capabilities to determine if this is a pragmatic goal to reach.
How to Implement This
The page title should:
- Accurately describe the page's content and purpose
- Be unique (no duplicates)
- Be simple and concise
- Use language that's familiar to the user (no jargon)
- Include the unique name first and overall site name last
For example here is a good example:
<title>Banana Bread Recipe - World’s Best Cookbook</title>
Here is a poor example. It includes the overall site name first (which becomes tiresome if the screen reader reads through that for every page). The name that follows is not unique and doesn’t describe what kind of recipe it is.
<title>World’s Best Cookbook - Recipe</title>
Here are some helpful guides to writing page titles:
Information architecture (IA) is the process of organizing and labeling content in a way that's intuitive to users. Well-designed IA can also help ensure that page titles are unique and descriptive because it encompasses a complete content inventory.
This article lists some very effective IA exercises: How to Create Information Architecture for Web Design.
How to Test This
- Use automated testing tools such as Deque Axe and IBM Accessibility Checker to check for the presence of a page title.
- Manually check that the page title is unique and descriptive using the tips recommended above.
Corrections to page title illustration by Cam Beaudoin, The A11y Coder
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