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HTML landmarks and accessibility


Landmarks, or what I call structural elements, help define the structure of a document and help accessibility tools like screen readers describe the content to users.

The following table shows the HTML elements used to describe document landmarks, the associated ARIA roles and a description of what the landmark accomplishes.

HTML element Implicit ARIA Role Description
aside complementary Shows complementary content to the main subject of the page
footer contentinfo Displays information about a page. Typically that's things like copyright info, related links, the author
form form can be a landmark element if it has an accessible name (set with aria-label, aria-labelledby or title attributes)
header banner Where you put the page's introductory information like your logo, search, and main navigation
main main contains the main body of content or functionality of your page
nav navigation navigational links for your entire website or the current page
section region Standalone section of content. If none of the other landmarks fit then use a section. Like forms
None search The search ARIA landmark role has no associated HTML element. It is used to indicate search functionality.

In addition to the accessibility benefits of these elements, they also give us an anchor to start writing CSS from.

For example, to remove all the bullets in list items inside ul elements, we could do something like this:

footer ul li {
  list-style-type: none;

This will only remove the bullets in lists inside the footer but will not affect list outside the footer.

A consideration:

Some of these landmark elements may be nested.

For example, the following elements can have header and footer elements as children:

  • article
  • aside
  • main
  • nav
  • section

However, when these elements use header or footer the element refers to that parent element. In essence, we're saying the header or footer belongs to the element that contains it, not the document

There is a lot more to talk about when we talk about landmarks. A good reference is Landmarks and where to put them by Kilian Valkhof

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