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RE: Navigation lists and headers - best practise?

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From: Philip Kiff
Date: Aug 23, 2006 1:20PM


Penny wrote:
> I've looked at the UIUC "Best Practices" site before but I must have
> missed this: http://cita.uiuc.edu/html-best-practices/nav/menus.php
> Does everyone agree that it is best practice to have an h2 heading
> before a ul used for navigation?

I think the UIUC best practices site is a great resource; however, in this
particular case, I think their recommendation is specific to their own
site -- i.e. the document is a list of best practices for folks working on
various sections of the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign's
website, and not all the practices they list are necessarily meant to apply
generally to all other public websites everywhere.

I think it can be handy for some users if navigation menu lists are preceded
by headings, and I have begun to think that adding them is a generally good
idea, but I don't think it makes sense in all circumstances. And it
certainly would not make sense to specify h2 as the particular heading level
to use.

The appropriate heading level will depend on how headings are used elsewhere
on the site, and it will also depend on where the navigation appears in the
source order of the page code. For example, if the navigation menu is the
first thing that appears in the source order of the page's X/HTML code, then
it would be technically incorrect to apply anything except an h1 level
heading to the menu (since the first heading on a page must be h1 to conform
to other guidelines). In practical terms, I'm not sure that marking such
menus (ones that appear at the very top of the source order of the page)
with a heading is necessary or would lead to better ease of use for people
with disabilities or to PDA/cell phone/text-only browsers.

Phil.