We’ve discussed a lot of new elements here at HTML5Doctor, but the article element has somehow escaped the microscope… until now! article is one of the new sectioning elements. It is often confused with section and div but don’t worry we’ll explain the difference between them.
What the spec says
The article element represents a component of a page that consists of a self-contained composition in a document, page, application, or site and that is intended to be independently distributable or reusable, e.g. in syndication. This could be a forum post, a magazine or newspaper article, a blog entry, a user-submitted comment, an interactive widget or gadget, or any other independent item of content.
In addition to its content, an element typically has a heading (often in a header element), and sometimes a footer. The easiest way to conceptualise is to think of its use in a weblog, as mentioned in the spec’s examples “a blog entry” and “user-submitted comments.” Here at HTML5 Doctor, we wrap each weblog entry inside an element. We also use on ‘static’ content pages, like the About and Contact pages, as can be used for “any other independent item of content.” The tricky part is, what exactly is an independent item of content?
The smell test for going independent
An independent piece of content, one suitable for putting in an element, is content that makes sense on its own. This yardstick is up to your interpretation, but an easy smell test is would this make sense in an RSS feed? Of course weblog articles and static pages would make sense in a feed reader, and some sites have weblog comment feeds. On the other hand, a feed with each paragraph of this article as a separate post wouldn’t be very useful. The key point here is that the content has to make sense independent of its context, i.e. when all the surrounding content is stripped away.
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