Page Titles

Here is the classic Nielsen article on headlines.

The best practice as he outlines it is to place the most specific information about the page /first/ in the title.
Consider Macys.com. The following is a (hypothetical) nice, useful section title that could potentially be used:

“Fine China - DINING - Dining & Entertaining - Macy*s”

The most specific information comes first, then the name of the subsection, the section, and finally the name of the web site.
This is exactly the opposite of the common approach to titles :(

Someone at work asked the following:

> The industry standard is that the item in the nav, its page
> title and the breadcrumb that represents it should all match
> (exactly except in some exceptions).

I advocate, as Nielsen does, that in all cases the most specific information about the page be placed /first/ in the title. This is the exact opposite of the way most sites use titles.

In this case the industry standard is not the industry best practice :)
I can’t tell you how many sites I visit that have horrible, useless page titles :)

As an example, consider these (real!) section titles from Macys.com:

“Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DINING - Fine China”
“Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DINING - Drinkware”
“Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DINING - Casual China”

This is completely useless for the user.

Consider bookmarking. When a user hits control-D, the title of the page is what becomes the default title of the bookmark. Now, in Firefox, the width of the bookmarks menu is about 45 characters. So that clearly shows that anything in the page title after 45 characters is pretty much useless in terms of a bookmark — it just won’t be visible.

After bookmarking the 3 Macy’s pages above, this is pretty much how the bookmarks menu looks:

Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DINING - Fi…
Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DINING - Dr…
Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DINING - Ca…

For the user this is frustrating — why did I even bother to bookmark these pages? The only way to tell them apart is to click on each one and see where it goes :(

Another place where headlines are useful are with tabbed browsing. When I have 20 tabs open, I can see about the first 10-20 characters of each page’s title. Even with only 3 or 4 tabs open, I can only see about 30 characters of title. So again, anything after that is pretty much useless in terms of tabbed browsing.

In the case of our Macy’s pages, my tab titles would usually look something like this:

Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DI…
Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DI…
Macy*s - Dining & Entertaining - DI…

So that’s even worse than the bookmark case.

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