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Providing descriptive titles for web pages to help users find content and orient themselves

Accessibility Man with a webpage reading Page Titles

What does WCAG 2.4.2 say about page titles? 

For users without a disability, titles on web pages are often barely noticeable. But for other people, those titles are a vital way of quickly understanding the content of a page, and by extension, the relevance of that page to their needs. 

The W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) guideline 2.4.2. calls for every web page to have a descriptive title. There are two primary goals: first, to help users find the content they want, and second, to help users orient themselves within a website.  

Although there is a test for this potential obstacle to accessibility — "HTML page has non-empty title" — this test only distinguishes between titled web pages and those with no title whatsoever. Passing the test is just the first step towards conformance because you then need to check whether your title is actually descriptive in a useful way. 

Checkmark with the words WCAG 2.4.2. and a web browser open to a Page Titles tab. On the page it says "Every Page Needs a Descriptive Title"

Why are descriptive page titles important? 

People have come to expect websites to provide convenience and speed in accessing information. For people with disabilities, performing a rapid visual scan of a web page may not be possible. By ensuring that each page on your website provides a concise yet comprehensive description of its content, you can help these users to quickly and easily confirm that the page is relevant to their needs. 

Descriptive page titles also help users of all abilities to differentiate between content across multiple open browser windows or tabs, and benefit users with mobility impairments who navigate using audio. Equally, people with reading disabilities or impairments to short-term memory find it much faster and easier to identify content from the page title. 

Conforming to WCAG 2.4.2. will help you provide a good user experience to the largest possible group of people, as well as reduce your risk of a digital accessibility lawsuit under legislation such as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Side by side comparison of an accessibility score before AudioEye (61) and after AudioEye (94)

What can I do to fix the issue? 

Using an automated test, you can easily find all HTML web pages that have an empty <title> element. Completing that element with the appropriate content is a much bigger challenge — as is confirming that any pages passing the test have a useful title.  

This is an area of accessibility optimization that overlaps with SEO optimization, and it is vital to ensure that boosting your SEO score does not come at the cost of making life difficult for large numbers of users with disabilities. Another point to consider is making sure that your page titles are similar to any links leading to those pages. 

AudioEye combines automated scanning and remediation technology with human-led testing and custom remediation, providing a unique hybrid service that resolves accessibility issues on an ongoing basis. By subscribing to the AudioEye service, you get the benefit of rapid identification of missing titles and other key accessibility issues. You also gain access to a team of human experts who can support your web designers in understanding the best practices for creating accessible page titles. 

Don’t delay — subscribe today and solve your digital accessibility issues with AudioEye. 

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