General Guidance for Headings and Footers on the University of Maine System Website

The University of Maine System website follows the Associated Press Online Stylebook (External Site). Because the University of Maine System is an institution of higher learning and an institution that prioritizes accessible web content, consistency and accuracy are important. Please review your web content for errors in style, spelling and grammar.

Guidelines about headings/headers and footers can be found below.


Headings

Headings are usually larger in comparison to the overall text of a web page, and on the University of Maine System website these display as blue text in the “Lato” sans serif font. All pages in the University of Maine System website have at least one web heading, which will be the name of your webpage automatically placed as the top heading for every web page.

Headings within your page content are considered sub-headings, and follow a hierarchy of H2-H5 (H1 functioning as the page name as the top heading).

Headings benefit all readers

Headings help organize a web page and give all readers a sense of its structure. Many web readers are scanning your pages quickly, and headings can help them find a section of information on your page more easily — especially for users on mobile devices and users using assistive technology.

Headings can benefit the visually impaired

Web users who rely on screen readers can navigate a page according to its headings — they can listen to a list of headings on a page, and then skip to a heading to read the section underneath, similar in how a sighted user can scan the page visually to skip to the section they need. In fact, almost 70% of screen reader users prefer to use headings on a page to read content (2017 WebAIM survey) (External Site).

Headings can benefit your content in search engines

Adhering to accessibility best practices is helpful in many ways, including how your website content is found in search engines. These services will pay attention to the headings on your web page in order to better characterize content. Using headings in your content can drive more traffic to your web pages for this reason.

How to use headings

Headings follow a hierarchy with sub-headings H2 – H5 underneath the page’s H1 heading. The most important topic of the page should be the H2 heading, and sub-sections should be H3 headings within the page. If a page has multiple top-level topics on your website, it is appropriate to have multiple H2 headings for each of these main topics. Sub-sections within an H3 heading would be H4 headings, and so on.

Not every page will require all five headings, but all paragraph text should be preceded by at least an H2.

Title Case and sentence case in headings

Guidance on which heading should use which case is below:

  • H2s should be written as title-case without end-sentence punctuation
  • H3s should be sentence case and include end-sentence punctuation when written as a full sentence
  • H4s should be sentence case and include end-sentence punctuation when written as a full sentence
  • H5s should be sentence case and include end-sentence punctuation when written as a full sentence

Learn how to write in Title Case and sentence case here. 

Accordions function as H5 headings

Accordions function as H5s, so all accordions should have H2-H4s above them. See guidance on accordions and shortcode here.

Headings must exist in descending order

Do not skip levels of headings; you should not have an H4 heading on your page unless there is an H3 heading earlier in the page (and that H3 heading should have the page title’s H2 heading above it). Think of headings as the outline of your page, where you can jump “back” to a higher level heading when the topic changes. Here is a visual example:

H1: Name of your webpage (University of Maine System design automatically assigns the page title as H1)

  • H2: Topic of your web page
    • H3: Sub-topic on this page
    • H3: Another sub-topic on this page
      • H4: Sub-topic of this sub-topic
        • H5: Sub-topic of this sub-topic
    • H3: Another sub-topic of this page

Very rarely are the H5 headings used (typically in very long, complex pages and pages with accordions).

What not to do with headings

  • Do not use headings to make a paragraph of text stand out. Instead, put a heading over the text to characterize it better.
  • Do not use bold instead of a heading. Both screen readers and search engines will not recognize this as a heading, and the benefits of having the heading are diminished. Click here to read guidelines for how to use bold.

Footers

Footers are controlled by University of Maine System styling to include each of the universities within the System. Click here for the request form to request a custom footer.