Website Title Conventions

Stumbling over information on the internet is very easy to do, and when you to, it's surprising how much information can be found under such a specific topic. I just found some articles documenting some best practices about page titles, but more specifically still, the separators you should use.

Now, that sounds like a very pretty specific topic, but through a few clicks (and the power of hypertext) I had a number of articles, loads of words, a few differing opinions and one or two conventions. The specific topic itself is something that I've never even thought about before, although I have researched in to title order.

The title order convention goes along the following idea - Page Name, Section, Site Title. The most specific information to the left and the name of the site to the far right. This is done for a couple of good reasons.

  • When bookmarking the site, the title is often clipped. If the site title came first every time, when bookmarking multiple pages from one site, you'd just get a list of the site title... not very useful.
  • It is said that it adds weight for search engines.
  • The Usable Page Title by Jonathan Snook

However, the topic that I never but thought in to, was how to separate this information. The most common separators are dashes (-) and vertical bars (|), however, there are other characters, often over looked, which may be more appopriate.

Standards Schmandards article The Sound of the Accessible Title Tag Separator brings up the most thought-provoking ideas, mainly 'What is read out by screenreaders'? The most important point I took from this was:

Almost all browsers add the browser name (e.g. " - Microsoft Internet Explorer") at the end of the title. ... Most JAWS users know how to skip that part when they hear the "dash Microsoft...", but this could be an incentive to refrain from using the dash character as a separator in your title tag.

But it's also interesting to note that you should not use the bullet character if you write about guns and ammunition.

Both Standards Schmandards and Roger Johansson in his article Document titles and title separators recommend the vertical bar (or pipe) character. This is often used as a delimiter and is in fact what I use on this site.

However, Cameron Adams states that The pipe ("|") is just plain wrong, because aside from looking rude inbetween brackets, it already has the semantic meaning of logical or. in his article What's your favourite blip?. He suggests (and practices) using '>' which does show some sort of hierarchy. However, I'm going to go with Roger and the others on this one an stick with the vertical bar.