In addition to its content, an <article> element typically has a heading (often in a header element), and sometimes a footer. The easiest way to conceptualise <article> 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 <article> element. We also use <article> on ‘static’ content pages, like the About and Contact pages, as <article> 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 <article> 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.