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Use Meaningful Headers on Your Web Pages

Meaningful headers help people scanning the page to quickly see its content.  They help people hearing the page, who will be able to quickly jump from one section to another.  They help search engines, who will use headers to help determine how likely your page is to help answer their searchers’ questions.

Usability Sample

What is each subsection about? How quickly can you determine which section(s) you want to read?

Hunting.

By the general term hunting is included the three distinct branches of an art, or it may be called a science, which dates its origin from the earliest times, but which was particularly esteemed in the Middle Ages, and was especially cultivated in the glorious days of chivalry.

What methods of hunting were employed by sportsmen in the Middle Ages?

Venery, which is the earliest, is defined by M. Elzéar Blaze as "the science of snaring, taking, or killing one particular animal from amongst a herd." Hawkingcame next. This was not only the art of hunting with the falcon, but that of training birds of prey to hunt feathered game. Lastly, l'oisellerie (fowling), which, according to the author of several well-known works on the subject we are discussing, had originally no other object than that of protecting the crops and fruits from birds and other animals whose nature it was to feed on them.

Gaston Phoebus and His Book

Gaston Phoebus is known to have been one of the bravest knights of his time; and, after fighting, he considered hunting as his greatest delight. Somewhat ingenuously he writes of himself as a hunter, "that he doubts having any superior." Like all his contemporaries, he is eloquent as to the moral effect of his favourite pastime. "By hunting," he says, "one avoids the sin of indolence; and, according to our faith, he who avoids the seven mortal sins will be saved; therefore the good sportsman will be saved."

Invoking the Moon, the Sacred Obscurity of Forests, and Oaks of Enormous Diameter

From the earliest ages sportsmen placed themselves under the protection of some special deity. Among the Greeks and Romans it was Diana and Phoebe. The Gauls, who had adopted the greater number of the gods and goddesses of Rome, invoked the moon when they sallied forth to war or to the chase; but, as soon as they penetrated the sacred obscurity of the forests, they appealed more particularly to the goddess Ardhuina, whose name, of unknown origin, has probably since been applied to the immense well-stocked forests of Ardenne or Ardennes.

Hunters and Sportsmen Formed Brotherhoods Reputed to Have Special Powers, Mysterious Rites, and Secret Languages

Hunters and sportsmen in those days formed brotherhoods, which had their rank defined at public ceremonials, and especially in processions. In 1455, Gérard, Duke of Cleves and Burgrave of Ravensberg, created the order of the Knights of St. Hubert, into which those of noble blood only were admitted. The insignia consisted of a gold or silver chain formed of hunting horns, to which was hung a small likeness of the patron-saint in the act of doing homage to our Saviour's image as it shone on the head of a stag.

Hunting.

By the general term hunting is included the three distinct branches of an art, or it may be called a science, which dates its origin from the earliest times, but which was particularly esteemed in the Middle Ages, and was especially cultivated in the glorious days of chivalry.

Venery and Hawking

Venery, which is the earliest, is defined by M. Elzéar Blaze as "the science of snaring, taking, or killing one particular animal from amongst a herd." Hawkingcame next. This was not only the art of hunting with the falcon, but that of training birds of prey to hunt feathered game. Lastly, l'oisellerie (fowling), which, according to the author of several well-known works on the subject we are discussing, had originally no other object than that of protecting the crops and fruits from birds and other animals whose nature it was to feed on them.

Sportsmen Avoid Indolence

Gaston Phoebus is known to have been one of the bravest knights of his time; and, after fighting, he considered hunting as his greatest delight. Somewhat ingenuously he writes of himself as a hunter, "that he doubts having any superior." Like all his contemporaries, he is eloquent as to the moral effect of his favourite pastime. "By hunting," he says, "one avoids the sin of indolence; and, according to our faith, he who avoids the seven mortal sins will be saved; therefore the good sportsman will be saved."

Presiding Deities of Sportsmen

From the earliest ages sportsmen placed themselves under the protection of some special deity. Among the Greeks and Romans it was Diana and Phoebe. The Gauls, who had adopted the greater number of the gods and goddesses of Rome, invoked the moon when they sallied forth to war or to the chase; but, as soon as they penetrated the sacred obscurity of the forests, they appealed more particularly to the goddess Ardhuina, whose name, of unknown origin, has probably since been applied to the immense well-stocked forests of Ardenne or Ardennes.

Sporting Societies and Brotherhoods

Hunters and sportsmen in those days formed brotherhoods, which had their rank defined at public ceremonials, and especially in processions. In 1455, Gérard, Duke of Cleves and Burgrave of Ravensberg, created the order of the Knights of St. Hubert, into which those of noble blood only were admitted. The insignia consisted of a gold or silver chain formed of hunting horns, to which was hung a small likeness of the patron-saint in the act of doing homage to our Saviour's image as it shone on the head of a stag.

 

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Use brief, meaningful headers to allow your reader to scan a page quickly for the information they need.

The use of "scanning" is one of the major ways web readers differ from print readers. A web page has a ridiculously short period of time to convince a reader that what they're looking for can be found on that page. Scannability helps accomplish that goal.

Headers should guide a user through the content of a page quickly; if they're looking for something in particular, don't hide it behind explanations, clarifications, anecdotes or metaphors. Put those in the body of the section, once your reader's already figured out where their area of interest lies. Unless your audience is captive, they'll just leave the site if it's too frustrating to figure out whether the information they want is available there.

Accessibility Alert:

"Screen reader users have the ability to call up a list of on-page headings, and jump to the section of the page in which they're most interested. If your page is properly marked-up, screen reader users will find it much easier to navigate than a page that doesn't use the correct tags."
Seven Screen Reader Usability Tips

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Last updated on Monday, January 27, 2014.

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