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Every Page Needs a Title

A recent Google search for the phrase “Untitled Document” yielded 47 million hits. What’s with that? Are untitled documents the latest Internet meme? Are they a viral YouTube sensation?

Untitled web page.

Figure 10. A Google search shows that there are millions of untitled web pages.

Nothing so exciting. When you encounter one of those 45 million web pages that has “Untitled Document” in a tab or a window, what you see is a lost opportunity: you are looking at a Web page with no page title.

A page title is the name of a page that is stored in the head tag. (See the section on HTML for more information about the head tag.) The page title does not appear anywhere in the actual web page, instead you will see it in the top of the browser window as in Figure 10. Many web authoring programs automatically insert “Untitled Document” as a placeholder title, and many users of that software do not bother to change that default. Too bad for us readers.

While your page title will appear atop the currently open window, page titles also appear in places that are totally apart from the actual web page you have written. For example, your page title appears in representations of your open page in the taskbar or dock; it appears in history and bookmark lists, and it is used in search results and RSS feeds. Because a page title has a life separate from the page it represents, you should write page titles that provide both context and topic so that the page title can stand alone. What does a page title like “home” or “intro” tell you about a web page when viewed in an RSS feed? What about “Blog #1 or “Please Read”? Do you really have so much free time on your hands that you’re willing to click on one of these?

A good page title should announce the topic of your page and the name of your blog, wiki, or website.  Earlier in this book in Figure 1, you saw a picture of a page from Steve Krause’s blog.

Here is a page title from one of his blog entries:

Example of Steve Krause's blog page titles

Figure 11. An effective page title includes the topic of the page and the name of the blog or website.

It makes complete sense, doesn’t it? You could look at this page title in any context and know where the page was from and why you would visit. About the only information this page title doesn’t provide is that you should pronounce the “e” at the end of Krause. 

Many blogging platforms, such as Wordpress, automatically add the name of a site to a page title, making your life easier, but if you are creating web pages from scratch or if you are working with blogging software that is not as page-title friendly as Wordpress, be sure to include in your page titles both your major headline and the name of your site.