Using headings to structure content in an accessible way

What are headings?

Headings are a way to organize a web page, word document or pdf to help users get an idea of the page’s structure, content and organization.

Why are headings important?

Headings provide structure to your documents by describing topic and subtopic areas in an outline fashion. When people can follow a site or document’s organization and structure, it is easier for them to comprehend the content. Headings become a navigation tool for both those who can see visually and those who use screen readers. For those who use screen readers, the use of headings allows them to listen to a list of all the headings and skip to the desired area on the page or document. For those who can see, the use of visually apparent headings allows them to quickly visually scan the document or site to get an overall idea of meaning of the site or document. 

Usings headings

Headings and subheadings are an important usability and accessibility strategy to help readers scan and locate information within a page. (h1-h6) Sometimes site editors choose a subheading level to apply because they think it is more visually appealing than the subheading that would fit the page's content hierarchy. It is important to not skip a heading level when you add content to a page! H2 should follow H1; H3 should indicate that the content is a subset of the H2 topic and so on. Here's an example of how to order subheadings within a page:

H1 - title of page

H2 - topic 1

H2 - topic 2

H3 - subset 1 of topic 2

H3 - subset 2 of topic 2

H4 - subset of subset 2

H2 - topic 3

H3 - subset 1 of topic 3

H2 - topic 4

Resources and drop-ins


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