Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Web design tip: It's a title, not an afterthought

Many people rely on their browser's "favorites" or "bookmarks" to keep track of web pages they visit often.  Google Chrome even offers a feature that allows you to synchronize favorite sites between all of your  computers and devices.  This works on PC, Mac, iOS, Andriod, and Linux: basically any device on which you can install Chrome or Chromium.

But a bookmark is only helpful if it does it's job: allowing you to quickly access a specific web page.  Part of that is being able to remember or recognize the site by the name of the favorite.  Regardless of the browser, when a page is bookmarked, the browser uses the title of the web page for the title of the favorite.  So it's important that web designers consider this when titling pages.  If it's the home page, then the site title is probably best.  If it's a page inside the site, then it should include the primary headline of the page.

Wikipedia does this elegantly.  Here are some examples:

My descriptionPage titleURL
Wikipedia home page Wikipedia
Page about Suzanne Collins Suzanna Collins - Wikipedia

However there are still some sites that, for some reason, use the title for other purposes. I won't go as far as to say it's wrong, but I will admit, I don't understand the strategy.

My descriptionPage titleURL
Goodreads home page Share Book Recommendations With Your Friends, Join Book Clubs, Answer Trivia
Page about The Unwanteds Goodreads | The Unwanteds (Unwanteds, #1) by Lisa McMann — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

With titles this large they can't even be seen on the browser tab, nor on the bookmark button.  So, again, I don't understand the strategy here.  I suppose one could say this helps with search engine optimization (SEO).  However, in HTML, there are meta tags for that very purpose.

Consider this when titling your web pages: the title shouldn't be an afterthought; it deserves some type of strategy.

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