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The Title Attribute
How do you use the Title Attribute correctly?
pageoneresults




msg:3597554
 4:22 pm on Mar 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

From 7 The global structure of an HTML document...

7.4.3 The title attribute
[w3.org...]

Values of the title attribute may be rendered by user agents in a variety of ways. For instance, visual browsers frequently display the title as a "tool tip" (a short message that appears when the pointing device pauses over an object). Audio user agents may speak the title information in a similar context. For example, setting the attribute on a link allows user agents (visual and non-visual) to tell users about the nature of the linked resource.

H33: Supplementing link text with the title attribute
[w3.org...]

If the supplementary information provided through the title attribute is something the user should know before following the link, such as a warning, then it should be provided in the link text rather than in the title attribute.

I'm seeing a lot of new sites where the anchor text is being repeated verbatim within the title attribute of the a href. This is incorrect use, please stop it now. You do know who you are as you have a very large userbase out there that is now toting around some extra "attributable" weight, shed those bytes now. :)

The above quote from the WCAG sums it all up and it is definitely worth repeating...

If the supplementary information provided through the title attribute is something the user should know before following the link, such as a warning, then it should be provided in the link text rather than in the title attribute.

What's your take on the Title Attribute and its use?

 

cmarshall




msg:3597581
 4:38 pm on Mar 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

I usually use them to expand on the meaning of the link. I don't put too much text in there (most times), as the browser will cut it off.

WordPress is annoying. I'm trying to figure the best way to make its titles a bit more usable. Looks like I'll have to write some of my own hooks.

pageoneresults




msg:3598124
 3:59 am on Mar 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, since you mentioned WordPress, you are correct. That particular plugin is a nuisance and should be banned from the Plugins list. I see it with other platforms too, not just WP. Its that whole Open Source movement. I wouldn't be surprised if there are plugins to generate the meta revisit-after element.

I'm in a somewhat unique situation where I review many SEO provider websites on a regular basis. First thing I do is View Source when I visit their home page. Well, I get the visual, make a mental note and then View Source. I can tell quite a bit about a person's level of anality by those two first steps, the visual and the source.

I see a large number of newcomers to the industry who are adamant about replicating their anchor text within a title attribute for "all" links. How tacky is that? I mean, is that a sign of laziness or just not knowing any better?

If you have to use the title attribute, then there may be a good chance that you need to rewrite the anchor text associated with that link to avoid the use of the title attribute. What say ye?

cmarshall




msg:3598279
 10:33 am on Mar 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, the biggest problem that I see is that users are increasingly expecting tooltips, due to being trained by the operating system and other software. This is probably why everyone insists on having them everywhere.

However, tooltips are incredibly annoying in content text. Also, WP (not just plugins; this is the default behavior) puts "parrot titles" in all its nav links and pretty much any link provided by template tags and hooks. I have a WP-based site that I have customized up the yin-yang, and it looks like I need to keep working on it and further overriding its default behavior. I keep getting surprised by where the little yellow buggers pop up.

There is one place where I find titles are useful: iconic elements. I don't like using pure icons (I made that mistake once, long ago, in a software product I wrote). However, they are useful. I won't use icons alone. They must be accompanied by text (I combine the text and the icon in one anchor element, so they are "joined at the hip"). There is very often a tight fit, and I can't use a whole lot of text. In this case, an anchor element is useful to expand upon the icon's target.

pageoneresults




msg:3598652
 5:07 pm on Mar 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, the biggest problem that I see is that users are increasingly expecting tooltips, due to being trained by the operating system and other software. This is probably why everyone insists on having them everywhere.

Aren't tooltips more expected in an application environment? I can understand their use there due to real estate limitations. I can also understand their limited use within documents.

Also, WP (not just plugins; this is the default behavior) puts "parrot titles" in all its nav links and pretty much any link provided by template tags and hooks.

I had to do a search for "Parrot Titles" and still couldn't find anything specific to that reference. Did you just coin that one? :) Man, those things are annoooyyying. Imagine what a screenreader pronounces based on the users preferences. If they are listening to titles, they'll think they just got trapped in a cavern with all the "echoes".

I'll assume that was someone's "SEO" idea for WP? And it just filtered down/up to all the other platforms that are similar?

One site I reviewed recently had a right nav full of outbound links. I mean, that thing was probably a good 1-2 feet of vertical screen real estate. Each link had a title attribute which was a replica of the anchor text, a true duplicate. Not only that, but they were creative in that all Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialisms, etc. had their respective title attributes. But, they were on every single reference on the page which is bad practice.

cmarshall




msg:3598933
 9:07 pm on Mar 12, 2008 (gmt 0)

Aren't tooltips more expected in an application environment?

Well, that's a lot of the "Web 2.0" paradigm. The merging of local platforms with distributed platforms; jacking into cyberspace, the Semantic Web, the Borg Collective, etc.

Browsers and Web sites are increasingly presenting content in the form of "applets." Not Java applications, but heavy-duty Flash and these interactive AJAX pages. It's all about blurring the boundary between the local and the remote. In fact, before Apple threw in the towel and published an API, the way to write "iPhone applications" was to write AJAX Web pages.

Did you just coin that one?

I guess so. It just seemed a fitting term...

I can override all the default behavior for WP, but that means I'll have more work to do when I need to upgrade.

DrDoc




msg:3601268
 5:16 am on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I only use the title attribute for a handful of things:

- <abbr> and <acronym> tags (first usage of term on page)
- images that I do not supply an otherwise visible caption for

I never use it on links, as I make sure that the link text and/or context is self explanatory.

Occasionally I also use it in a controlled environment. Say a table with icons for sorting, I may use the title attribute to indicate the function of the icon. Another example would be a WYSIWYG editor environment.

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