Making Sense of Your Web Content: A Guide to Semantic Structure in HTML

Have you ever thought about making sure your website is easy for everyone, even machines, to understand?

A collage of shapes, colours, and hands assembling content to form a hierarchy of information

Imagine you had a simple formula for structuring your content on your next big web project. What if human users, as well as machines, could effortlessly understand and navigate it all?

This is where semantic structure in HTML comes into play.

Let’s look at how to make content that’s easy to read and understand with assistive technologies for human users, search engine algorithms, and large language models like GPT.

This enhances accessibility for users with disabilities who use assistive technologies – like screenreaders – which interpret and navigate the web. Semantic structure also influences how search engines rank pages and how document flow becomes comprehensible to AI assistants.

Heading Tags for Content Organization

Use heading tags (such as <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc.) to organize your content into sections and subsections. Ensure that headings accurately reflect the content they introduce and use sequentially – always an H1 before an H2, and so on – to create a logical flow.

Headings aren’t the only context-rich tags that separate and organize your content. Describe your document structure with tags like <header>, <nav>, <main>, <article> and more.

Check out the full list of semantically meaningful tags from the web developer resource W3Schools.

Whether designing a website, writing a blog post, or creating an online application, prioritizing semantic structure will ensure that your content resonates with your audience and stands the test of time.

Descriptive Labels

Labels: In forms and interactive elements, labels are essential in guiding users and providing context for input fields. Make sure that labels are descriptive and clearly explain the purpose of each field. This not only enhances accessibility but also improves usability for all users.

Review examples of descriptive form labels from the Chromium Dev Team documentation.

Saving Time

Reuse existing markup patterns to reduce the time spent on layout and formatting decisions. 

Semantically structured HTML also promotes accessibility best practices. This saves time in the long run by minimizing the need for retroactive accessibility fixes and avoiding potential legal issues associated with inaccessible content.

Let’s Check Your Site Together.

An accessible website is designed and built with clean, flexible code that adapts well to new technologies.


Understandable Content as defined by WCAG 2.0

Readable Text: Use clear and concise language that is easy for users to understand. Avoid jargon or complex terminology that may confuse your audience.

Predictable Operations: Ensure that your content appears and operates in predictable ways. Users should be able to navigate your website intuitively without encountering unexpected obstacles or confusing layouts.

Error Prevention and Correction: Help users avoid and correct mistakes by providing descriptive labels and clear instructions. For example, in forms, using descriptive labels helps users understand the purpose of each input field and minimizes errors.

Further Reading