Website Writing Guide

Web writing and presentation style

Heading hierarchy

Do not use more than four heading levels on a Web page. No more than three levels is preferable.

  1. main
  2. sub-heading
  3. sub-sub-heading
  4. sub-sub-sub-heading.

Users are very likely to become confused when more than four heading levels are used. It requires them to remember each heading and the relationship between the nested content on the page. This is counter to the way people read Web pages and usually assumes users have a far greater grasp of the content than they do.

If you believe a fifth heading level is required, simplify the heading hierarchy or consider splitting the content into multiple pages. For all short pieces of text use only the main and first sub-head. This is easier for the reader and helps the writer and editor to be more succinct.

Do not confuse the limit of four heading levels with the number of headings you can use on a page. There can be more than four headings on a page but the nesting should not go beyond four levels.

For example, this Web page uses four heading levels.

1. Website Writing Guide

2. Web writing and presentation style

3. Heading hierarchy

4. Questions as headings

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Questions as headings

Use questions as headings with care. They can be an effective attention-grabbing device but they need to be used wisely.

  • use a question that is worded to elicit a yes or no answer when you want to define or restrict the audience for a particular piece of content. Beware: if your question heading demands a yes or no answer, those that answer no will not read the content.
    For example, Want advice about your next outback trek?
    Users planning an outback trek are likely to read the content, but those planning a trip along the coast are unlikely to.
  • use an open-ended question when you want to intrigue people and entice them to read the content.
    For example, Why are so many websites difficult to use?
  • the content under the question heading must answer the question posed otherwise it will confuse or annoy users.

 

Other topics in this section

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