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The Table of Content at Wikipedia use numbers for an ordered list.
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But the headline doens't start with this number.
Why?
It look wrongs for me, maybe because I'm used to the same result as in books with chapters.
I think a number in the headline (1. History) looks like a ordered list with steps that must be followed in order like a cook recipe. But without a dot like "1 History" doesn't look right.
Is there a UX best practice to use numbering in a headline like a chapter with an index (TOC)?

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  • I think it makes sense for the contents to be numbered, as there usually is a logical ordering to the article sections--for example, a biographical article typically has a loose chronological ordering. What exactly is your question? Jun 27, 2017 at 13:14
  • Sorry, my question is. Why don't use Wikipedia numer in the front of the Headline? Is it while it looks like a ordered list that must use (read) in this order? If yes: the final Q is what is the best practise to use number in the headline that don't look: "you must read it in this order".
    – Lovntola
    Jun 27, 2017 at 13:46

1 Answer 1

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TL;DR: Wikipedia's numbering is mostly redundant.


Why did Wikipedia number the contents at all?

From a UX perspective, people expect the table of contents to be numbered

  • Because books have numbered contents.
  • Without the numbers, it wouldn't be so immediately obvious that it's a table of contents.

It's unlikely the numbers are there for citation purposes

  • I've not found a single instance where somebody has cited the section number of a Wiki.
  • No major referencing guides (Harvard/APA/Chicago/IEEE) accommodate section numbers in references to Wikipedia articles.

Why did Wikipedia not put the section number before the headings?

One justification might be that it's not required on websites because you can use hyperlinks instead.

But the heading numbers are missing from the Printable Version and Create a Book version too.

This backs up that there's no other purpose aside from making the contents look like contents.


What's the best practice for numbering?

There are benefits to numbering your headings.

As Devin writes in the comments:

[There is] the need of numbers to follow a mental path, specially in long articles. For example, if in TOC I click on item list 4, having a numbered header will remind me of the items I left behind just in case I need to go back to find some information.

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  • good answer. However, made me think about the need of numbers to follow a mental path, specially in long articles. For example, if in TOC I click on item list 4, having a numbered header will remind me of the items I left behind just in case I need to go back to find some information
    – Devin
    Jun 27, 2017 at 15:51
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    @Devin I should clarify, my answer is explaining "Why doesn't the headline start with this number?" rather than answering "Is there a UX best practice to use numbering in a headline?". From a UX/IA perspective, I absolutely agree that the numbers should be before the section headings. I'll adjust my answer so that it addresses both.
    – user101673
    Jun 27, 2017 at 16:10
  • it was just a comment , I didn't mean it was incorrect, just got me thinking, as a matter of fact I voted up you r answer :)
    – Devin
    Jun 27, 2017 at 16:21
  • It's okay, I didn't think that was the case :) I've quoted you in my answer if that's okay? I figured that you had already explained the point so well that it wasn't worth me re-hashing it.
    – user101673
    Jun 27, 2017 at 16:24
  • 100% agree with you. What do think is the difference between a 1. Head, 1 Head and 1 - Head? The first one look to me like a step by step number like a story book.
    – Lovntola
    Jun 27, 2017 at 18:03

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