I am experimenting with different types of TOC and I would like some feedback on what works best from an UX perspective.

  • I like the simple sidebar TOC (like here)sidebar widget TOC
  • And the floating side TOC for blog posts (like here)floating side TOC But I am seeing more and more sites that use a collapsible TOC at the top of articles that you have to click on to open (like here). Collapsible TOC This type is smaller and less intrusive for users who don't want a TOC taking the entire page. But I actually missed the TOC the first time a colleague showed me that page as an example.

What are the pros and cons of each type? Does any data on UX or SEO support the use of different types of TOC?

  • 1
    What's the domain and context? What problem are you trying to solve. More details can help flesh out the form factor that might be appropriate for you...
    – Mike M
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 14:50
  • Good questions. The goal is to educate users on the value of comparison shopping and get them to use our free comparison tools. With the TOC I am hoping to improve SEO, increase time on page, and reduce bounce. I agree that for organic users TOC may be redundant sometimes (as user35887 mentioned below). Maybe a sticky side TOC would help increase engagement by directing users to other sections of the article in long-format pieces. Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


Start first with YOUR goal.

If your goal is for the person to read the information they selected, then you don't need a table of contents.

If your goal is for the person to read a lot about related topics, then include a table of contents (I assume this is your case).

Next, focus on the typical state of your user. How well were they able to get to the content that they were looking for?

If they came from a search result page then we can assume they were presented with an option that they wanted and so your additional table of contents is extraneous.

On the opposing end, if they came from a generalized button like 'help', then the table of contents is required for navigation purposes (I'm assuming this is your case). In this case, we would choose your simple side bar table of contents (since it is unlikely that the user will scroll on the random page we have dropped them on).

Without knowing more information, there is a limit how well your question can be answered.

Here are additional notes:

Your floating table of contents is most appropriate for long articles and engaged users who are scrolling through the page (and you are saving them time from having to scroll back up to the top).

The collapsable table of contents is for a very specific case. As you mentioned it is unlikely to be noticed, and also unlikely to be clicked even by the people who notice it, UNLESS they know specifically that there is a high likelihood that clicking the button is the fastest way to get to what they want. I can tell you from a large amount of experience and data that the more steps you have in a process, the less people complete it.

In your first screenshot, your table of content sections took me more time to read and comprehend then scrolling on the page itself would have. This seems like a table of contents 'for table of contents sake' rather than people coming to your page and looking for a specific section (consider removing).

In your second screenshot, a table of contents seems more appropriate.

With my limited window into what you are creating, I would

  1. Reserve table of contents for common questions, or topics of frequent interest (like 'Safety', not 'Methodology: How we picked the best personal loans')
  2. Consider making all of the table of content entries concise questions (you have many good ones there already)
  3. If you have a small number of entries, you can comfortably omit the table of content because people WILL scroll on a page.
  4. Add analytic tools to your page so you can watch how most people use it, and adjust your design accordingly.

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