Headers are a multifaceted term when it comes to the world of the web. One use is really technical and the other one regards design terminology. I thought I'd briefly explain both!
Headers – In design
The header area is the space in the top of your site. It is one of the most important areas for determining your site identity which makes it a natural area to place main navigation, logotypes, statements and you most important widgets. My header is very simple and consists simply of my name and some main navigation.
A well designed header can really draw a visitor into the page and create conversions.
Headers – The technical way
In HTTP and HTTPS, the two major application protocol’s for the web communication are sent with headers. For example, when you visit www.stefan-wallin.se the following requests and responses will occur, each with a separate header:
- Your browser will send a GET header which requests the page at http://www.stefan-wallin.se/ – basically asking a server: “I want your resource at / transferred using the HTTP 1.0 protocol.
- The Server then replies and closes the connection with a set of headers and the full content response. In my particular case the headers are listed here
GET / HTTP/1.0
HTTP/1.0 200 OK Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2010 19:19:00 GMT Server: Apache X-Powered-By: W3 Total Cache/0.9.1.1 X-Pingback: http://www.stefan-wallin.se/xmlrpc.php Cache-Control: max-age=600 Expires: Wed, 28 Jul 2010 19:29:00 GMT Vary: Accept-Encoding Connection: close Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
These header are necessary to tell the browser how to behave when it comes to caching, content encoding and other technical stuff that makes your web browsing more pleasant. Headers is a form of metacommunication so that you don’t have to.