Prevent Widows with PHP and JavaScript

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One of the small touches you can add to your website is preventing "widows" in your H1-H6 tags.  For those who aren't aware, a widow (in terms of text and headings) means only one word of a title wraps to the next line -- a bit of an ugly sight if you ask me.  The way to prevent widows with just text is by adding a   between the last two words of the text instead of a regular space character.  Here are two snippets for preventing widows in your website:  one using JavaScript and another using PHP!

// With JavaScript
var text = text.replace(/\s(?=[^\s]*$)/g, ' ');
// With PHP
$text = preg_replace( '|([^\s])\s+([^\s]+)\s*$|', '$1 $2', $text);

As I mentioned originally, widows are not necessarily a bug, but a small visual quirk that just doesn't look great.  Keep these regex usages handy so you can prevent such a smudge!

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Discussion

  1. Great idea to take care of all headings at once!

    Only concern I would have would be search engines. Are there repercussions to adding this markup? Would it confuse/deter proper search engine indexing?

    I’m sure Google, etc take javascript into account in some way, but I would do this via javascript instead of PHP to lessen the chances of hurting search rankings (if that’s important to you).

  2. I’ve never seen the ?= operator in regular expression. And I don’t find such in my regex cheat sheet. Can you please explain how this particular reg ex is working? Thanks.

  3. The ?= is a look-ahead operator. It allows you to specify an expression that matches what comes next. In the example above

    (?=[^\s]*$)

    the expression is stating that the character after the space must be zero-or-more non-whtie-space characters followed by the end of the string. In other words, it makes sure that it only replaces the last space in the heading with a non-breaking space.

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