Should you bother with semantic elements?

HTML5 has given web developers a slew of new block-level elements (or, what we would call block level elements, except now they’re called “sectioning” elements).

The HTML5 sectioning elements include main, article, section, nav, aside, header, footer, and address.

The question that more and more people are starting to ask is: does it matter whether we use semantic sectioning (aka block) elements, or is it perfectly ok to just use div as we’ve been doing for so long?

One of the main arguments for using semantic markup is that search engines take it into account and can better understand semantic HTML than generic blocks, aka ‘div’ elements.

But, we have yet to see evidence that this is true, and no one that we’ve talked to outside of the W3C seems to be convinced that there’s any real benefit to surrounding your navigation with a nav element vs. surrounding your navigation, header, footer, content area, and asides with divs.

What do you think? Do you use semantic elements consistently? Do you feel like they are actually beneficial, or would you be just as comfortable with using divs with descriptive id attributes?

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About Chris Minnick

Chris Minnick is an accomplished published author, trainer, web developer, and co-founder of WatzThis?. Chris has overseen the development of hundreds of web and mobile projects for customers ranging from small businesses to some of the world's largest companies. Books he's authored or co-authored include: Beginning HTML5 and CSS3 for Dummies, Webkit for Dummies, CIW eCommerce Certification Bible, and XHTML. Since 2001, Chris has trained thousands of Web and mobile developers in HTML, JavaScript, CSS, SEO, and full-stack web development. His current online courses, Creating Mobile Apps with HTML5 and Achieving Top Search Engine Placements are consistently among the most popular courses offered by online training provider In addition to his role with WatzThis?, Chris is the winemaker at a micro-winery (Bad Astronauts Winery), contributor to several blogs (including, and an avid swimmer, cook, and musician.

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