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Technique H48:Using ol, ul and dl for lists or groups of links



This technique relates to 1.3.1: Info and Relationships (Sufficient when used with Making information and relationships conveyed through presentation programmatically determinable using the following techniques: ).


The objective of this technique is to create lists of related items using list elements appropriate for their purposes. The ol element is used when the list is ordered and the ul element is used when the list is unordered. Description lists (dl) are used to group name-value pairs of information, for example: terms and definitions or questions and answers. Although the use of this markup can make lists more readable, not all lists need markup. For instance, sentences that contain comma-separated lists may not need list markup.

When markup is used that visually formats items as a list but does not indicate the list relationship, users may have difficulty in navigating the information. An example of such visual formatting is including asterisks in the content at the beginning of each list item and using br elements to separate the list items.

Some assistive technologies allow users to navigate from list to list or item to item. Style sheets can be used to change the presentation of the lists while preserving their integrity.

The list structure, commonly unordered lists, is also useful to group hyperlinks. When this is done, it helps screen reader users to navigate from the first item in a list to the end of the list or jump to the next list. This helps them to bypass groups of links if they choose to.


Example 1: A list showing steps in a sequence

This example uses an ordered list to show the sequence of steps in a process.

  <li>Mix flour, eggs, milk, and seasoning in a bowl.</li>
  <li>Whisk until the batter is smooth.</li>
  <li>Rest the batter for at least 30 minutes before cooking.</li>

Example 2: A grocery list

This example shows an unordered list of items to buy at the store.


Example 3: A word and its definition

This example uses a description list to group a definition with the term that is being defined.

  <dd>turn on and off between 0.5 and 3 times per second</dd>

Example 4: Contact information using a description list

This example uses a description list to mark up pairs of related items. The pairs themselves are a logically related list.

    <dd>Taisha Silveri</dd>

This is shown in the working example of contact information using a description list.

Other sources

No endorsement implied.



  1. Check that content that has the visual appearance of a list (with or without bullets) is marked as an unordered list.
  2. Check that content that has the visual appearance of a numbered list is marked as an ordered list.
  3. Check that content is marked as a description list when groups of name-value pairs, for example: terms and definitions or questions and answers, are presented in the form of a list.

Expected Results

  • All the checks above are true.
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