100 Things You Should Know About People: #93 — Titles Provide Context

Read this paragraph:

First you sort the items into like categories. Using color for sorting is common, but you can also use other characteristics, such as texture or type of handling needed. Once you have sorted the items, you are ready to use the equipment. You want to process each category from the sorting separately. Place one category in the machine at a time.

What is the paragraph about? It’s hard to understand. But what if I give you the same paragraph with a title:

Using Your New Washing Machine

First you sort the items into like categories. Using color for sorting is common, but you can also use other characteristics, such as texture or type of handling needed. Once you have sorted the items, you are ready to use the equipment. You want to process each category from the sorting separately. Place one category in the machine at a time.

The paragraph is still poorly written, but now at least it is understandable.

Titles and headings are critical. They provide context and cue your brain and memory for what comes after. Whether or not something is well written or poorly written, titles activate the appropriate schema (see the post on schema for more information).

Titles are important for text, but also for field labels on forms. If you want people to understand what to do, use a clear title that makes sense to them.

What do you think? Do you spend enough time crafting titles?

 

 

100 Things You Should Know About People: #94 -- Repetition Changes Your Brain
100 Things You Should Know About People: #92 -- There Is A Brain Area Dedicated To Perceiving Faces

3 Replies to “100 Things You Should Know About People: #93 — Titles Provide Context”

  1. I’m a fan of titles that not only clue to the reader to the following paragraph, but actually convey information themselves.
    Compare:

    “Recommended Filling of Washing Machine.”

    to

    “Overfilling Shortens Machine Lifespan.

    People who *only* read the titles will still get the basic jist, not just some meta-description of the paragraph to come.

  2. It’s posts like these that make me glad I subscribed to your blog feed.

    So true. I was just discussing this with my web design colleague. We have a widget that has images with text in them indicating their purpose (each is labelled “success story”), but they weren’t being read much. I added a title to the widget with the images (titled “Success Stories”), and now it just looks better. Others have noticed the change, even though it’s seemingly so minor.

    Details matter. Titles really really do matter! Thanks for writing on this. :)

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