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Question about use of headings on major news sites

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From: Margit Link-Rodrigue
Date: Aug 27, 2010 12:03PM


I am trying to establish best practices for our corporate website, and
thought I would give some extra emphasis to the use of headings. Different
opinions exist about whether it matters not to skip from <h1> headings to
<h3> headings, but content management systems often cause this non-linear
structure.

I figured I'd take a look at how the big news outlets structure their sites
to get some inspiration. However, I am rather surprised at the rather
chaotic use of headings, and it looks to me as if it would be very difficult
for screen reader users to navigate any of those sites.

For example, the Wall Street Journal homepage at
http://online.wsj.com/home-page. Is it even possible for a screen reader
user to find out what the featured news story is? Then, when you start
reading an article, it never has any headings (since all headings seem to be
used up for structuring the page's content areas as distinct sections.) This
seems to be common practice (I checked cnn.com, nyt.com, time.com) - no
sub-headings within articles.

Foxnews.com was the only news site I found that at least sometimes uses
headings in their articles for sighted users. The headings, however, are not
marked up as such. Example: Current fox news cover story at:
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/27/katrina-years-hurricane-devastated-political-futures-new-orleans/
.

My question is, how easy or frustrating is it for screen reader users to
navigate any of these news sites? And why don't newspapers use any headings
in general within articles, even if the articles are long? I guess they want
the readers to read the entire article rather than skipping through it?

Thank you,
Margit