hCard authoring tips

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This page contains useful tips and guidelines for how to author hCards, either from scratch, or by adding markup to existing content.

Goal: The goal of this document is to provide some good intuitive guidelines that should make it as easy and as quick as possible for any web author to create hCards or add hCard markup to existing content.

Audience: Web authors, designers, IA's. This document is written for easy consumption and understanding by any web designer who knows at least enough (X)HTML and CSS to use semantic HTML class names on elements (i.e. POSH) and write CSS selectors that apply styles to those class names. Please help with clarifying/simplifying this document accordingly.

Author(s): Tantek Çelik, Mark Rickerby

A 5 minute primer to using hCard

Let's imagine a static page that contains some personal contact details, the main part of which looks something like:

<div id="contact">
  <h2>Contact Me</h2>
  <p>You can contact me via email to 
   <a href="mailto:jane@example.com">jane@example.com</a>, 
   or send stuff to me at the following address:</p>
  <p>255 Some Street,<br />
     Some Place,<br />
     Some Town</p>

This snippet has all the human readable information needed to produce a valid hCard representation - all that is necessary is to add some additional structure that defines each particular detail. The first thing to do is to add the vcard wrapper class to the enclosing div, which identifies this particular block as an hCard:

<div id="contact" class="vcard">

One thing that is noticeably missing from this snippet is the name of who these contact details apply to - this makes the information presented more ambiguous and harder to understand. It's good to be explicit with such things, and it just so happens that the name property is a compulsory field within an hCard as well. So let's add it, using the fn class:

<div id="contact" class="vcard">
   <h2>Contact Me</h2>
   <h3 class="fn">Jane Doe</h3>
   <p>You can contact me via email to 
    <a href="mailto:jane@example.com">jane@example.com</a>, 
    or reach me at the following address:</p>
   <p>255 Some Street,<br />
     Some Town,<br />
     Some Place</p>

Another thing we can do to improve the semantics of the snippet is to mark up the address with "adr", and use div tags since its not really a paragraph. At the same time, we should also get rid of the bed & breakfast markup in the second paragraph, replacing it with structured classnames for the components of a mailing address: adr, street-address, locality, and region. We can also add the email class to the mailto link, to complete the structure of the hCard:

<div id="contact" class="vcard">
   <h2>Contact Me</h2>
   <h3 class="fn">Jane Doe</h3>
   <p>You can contact me via email to 
    <a class="email" href="mailto:jane@example.com">jane@example.com</a>, 
    or reach me at the following address:</p>
   <div class="adr">
     <div class="street-address">255 Some Street</div>
     <div class="locality">Some Town</div>
     <div class="region">Some Place</div>

And that's all it takes!

Aside from the advantages of having such structured visible data, providing these additional class names also increases the visual design possibilities.

Add To Address Book Links

When you update your contact info to include hCard markup, you can also include an "Add to Address Book" link so your users can download your contact info to their address book with one click of a hyperlink!

Here is an example of such a link:

<a href="http://h2vx.com/vcf/tantek.com">
Add to Address Book

Simply substitute the link to your hCard for the tantek.com URL fragment above (note that http:// is implied, you can add it explicitly if you want).

If you have more than one hCard on that page, you should put a unique ID attribute on each, and then put %23yourIDhere at the end of your href code where yourIDhere is the ID attribute value that you put on the hCard you are creating the link for.

You can also use Brian Suda's hosted X2V service, or download and install the open source X2V XSLT yourself and run it on your own server instead of using an online hCard to vCard converter service.

Creating new hCards

Start with the hCard creator, and for additional fields and properties (e.g. telephone numbers, instant messaging contacts), see the hCard examples page.

Adding hCard markup to existing content

Natural language hCard

Perhaps you have a traditional prose description of yourself. Start by reading Jeremy Keith's article "Adactio: Journal - Natural language hCard" which provides a nice succinct introduction in the art of adding hCard markup to an existing prose biography.

Jeremy's recent post Year zero also contains an inline hCard citation reference to "Malarkey" (who was being quoted) that is quite illustrative of how to markup a simple hyperlinked reference to someone by obvious nickname:

<cite class="vcard">
 <abbr class="fn" title="Andy Clarke">
  <a href="http://www.stuffandnonsense.co.uk/malarkey/">Malarkey</a>

He could actually make this just a bit more semantic by explicitly noting that "Malarkey" is a nickname for Andy Clarke:

<cite class="vcard">
 <abbr class="fn" title="Andy Clarke">
  <a class="nickname" href="http://www.stuffandnonsense.co.uk/malarkey">Malarkey</a>

Similarly, a shortened given name only (e.g. Julie instead of Juliette) reference to someone can be marked up as such, here with XFN added to the hyperlink:

<span class="vcard">
 <abbr class="fn" title="Juliette Melton">
  <a class="url nickname" rel="friend" href="http://juliettemelton.com/">Julie</a>

Minimal Markup Changes

When adding hCard to existing content, keep in mind that hCard was designed for semantically enhancing existing content without affecting its presentation (or minimally so). Thus: change as little markup as possible. If you want to fix various pages to be valid XHTML etc., that's fine.

In all examples below where it says to add an element with class name of "xyz", first look for an existing element that precisely surrounds the necessary content. Re-use that element by simply adding the class name "xyz" (meaning, add " xyz" (without quotes) to the element's existing class attribute, or add a new class attribute class="xyz" to elements without a class attribute).



would become:

<span class="xyz">...</span>


<span class="foo">...</span>

would become:

<span class="foo xyz">...</span>

Find People or Organizations

Start with looking for all mentions of people or organizations on a page. All of those are potential hCards. Even more so if they are linked to their respective URLs (e.g. home pages / blogs).

If a person (or organization, henceforth shortened to just "person/org") is mentioned several times on a page, consider marking up the mention which is the most detailed, definitive, or otherwise thorough as an hCard. Ideally you might want to mark up all instances of a person/org as hCards, but for now, just keep it simple and markup the most representative instance. (Perhaps the most "definitive" instance, which could also then be marked up with a <dfn> element around the name of the person/org for additional semantic XHTML goodness.)

Determine The Surrounding Element for Each

For each person/org that you want to turn into an hCard, find the smallest element that contains all the info about that person/org, and no info about any other person/org.

Add the class name "vcard" to that element.

If there is no such element (perhaps the nearest enclosing element contains more than one person/org), then add a <span class="vcard">...</span> or <div class="vcard">...</div> that wraps the info about that person/org and just that person/org.

The rest of the markup for this hCard MUST go inside that element with the class name "vcard".

The Importance of Names

The name is the one required property of hCard. Thus be sure to mark up the name of the person with the class name "fn". For names of people which are two simple words (text separated by space) and where the first word is their given name and the second word is their family name, the class name "fn" is sufficient. E.g.

<div class="vcard"><span class="fn">Rohit Khare</span></div>

For people with middle names or multi-word last names, you must mark them up with the "n" property and its sub-properties "given-name" and "family-name" (and "additional-name" when a middle name is included) e.g.:

<!-- 1. middle name example -->

<div class="vcard"><span class="fn n">
 <span class="given-name">Erin</span> 
 <span class="additional-name">Jo</abbr>
 <span class="family-name">Richey</span>

<!-- 2. middle initial only -->

<div class="vcard"><span class="fn n">
 <span class="given-name">Eric</span> 
 <abbr class="additional-name">A.</abbr>
 <span class="family-name">Meyer</span>

<!-- 3. middle initial with expansion -->

<div class="vcard"><span class="fn n">
 <span class="given-name">Emily</span> 
 <abbr class="additional-name" title="Paige">P.</abbr>
 <span class="family-name">Lewis</span>

<!-- 4. Norwegian name indicated with lang attribute -->

<div class="vcard"><span class="fn n" lang="no">
 <span class="given-name">Håkon</span> 
 <span class="additional-name">Wium</span>
 <span class="family-name">Lie</span>

<!-- 5. multiword family name example -->

<div class="vcard"><span class="fn n">
 <span class="given-name">Thomas</span> 
 <span class="family-name">Vander Wal</span>

Organization hCards

For hCards for organizations, be sure to put both the "fn" and "org" class names on the same element. Having those be the same is the hint to hCard consumers that the hCard represents an organization rather than a person. E.g.

<div class="vcard"><span class="fn org">Technorati</span></div>

Link it up

Add links to your website, your social network profiles and other sites that represent you specifically to your hCard with the class name url. Here is an example with a personal site, and Twitter and Flickr profile URLs:

<span class="vcard">
 <span class="fn">Tantek Çelik</span>, 
 <a class="url" href="http://tantek.com/">my site</a>, 
 <a class="url" href="http://twitter.com/t">twitter</a>, and
 <a class="url" href="http://flickr.com/tantek">flickr</a>.

connect with yourself

If you are marking up an hCard on your own site, be sure to also add the XFN rel="me" attribute to indicate that those profile pages are additional facets of your online identity. See Identity consolidation with XFN for more details.

<span class="vcard">
 <span class="fn">Tantek Çelik</span>, 
 <a rel="me" class="url" href="http://tantek.com/">my site</a>, 
 <a rel="me" class="url" href="http://twitter.com/t">twitter</a>, and
 <a rel="me" class="url" href="http://flickr.com/tantek">flickr</a>.

Edit your profiles on those other sites and set the "home page", "URL", or "blog" fields to link back to your own site to connect your social network profiles together.

Sites like http://huffduffer.com and Firefox plugins like Identify use APIs like the Google Social Graph API (which indexes rel-me links) to automatically connect your profiles for you in their user interfaces.

See Andreas Klinger's home page for a nice, simple, real world example of a personal site with hCard that links to other profiles.

name and URL only

One of the most common patterns for person/orgs in web content is the name of the person/org, hyperlinked to their definitive/preferred web site.

When you simply reference a person by name with URL, you can simplify the markup.

<span class="vcard">
 <a href="http://theryanking.com" class="fn url">Ryan King</a>

This works because the HTML class attribute takes a space separated set of class names.

Blogrolls are a good example of lists of people with name and URL (see also XOXO).


If the person's job title is mentioned, mark it up with <span class="title">...</span>.

Though typical vCards/hCards have only a single job title, if someone has several job titles listed say in a comma delimited list, just markup the whole lot of them with one big <span class="title">...</span>.

View source on the W3C Technical Plenary Agenda for examples of people with multiple titles.

Other affiliations

As vCard seems to imply a model of a person only being associated with one organization (at least certainly that's how most vcard-implementations appear to be written), consider placing other affiliations and info about the person into <span class="note">...</span> elements. You can have more than one; converters will simply append them all in source order.

View source on the W3C Technical Plenary Agenda for examples of people with additional affiliations (such as W3C Working Groups) marked up inside "note" elements.

Sometimes text in a document near a person/contact will explain *why* that person should be contacted. Such information is also useful to have in a "note" element.

View source on the O'Reilly ETech 2006 invite for examples of people with additional "For ... " reasons marked up as "note" elements.

Set the lang when different

In an English language document (lang="en"), be sure to markup the element surrounding any non-English names of people, companies, titles, notes etc. with a lang attribute with the appropriate value.

E.g. Spanish names in an english document should be marked up with (lang="es") on their elements.

View source on the W3C Technical Plenary Agenda, specifically Ignacio Marín, for an example of a person and org marked up with a lang attribute.

Phone Numbers

Add a few phone numbers like this:

<div class="tel">
  <span class="type">work</span>:
  <span class="value">+1-250-555-2142</span>
<div class="tel">
  <span class="type">work</span> toll free: 
  <span class="value">+1-800-555-1855</span>
<div class="tel">
  <span class="type">work</span>
  <span class="type">fax</span>:
  <span class="value">+1-250-555-2135</span>

This will display something like:

work: +1-250-555-2142
work toll free: +1-800-555-1855
work fax: +1-250-555-2135

The list of tel types are: voice [which is the default if "type" is unspecified], home, msg, work, pref, fax, cell, video, pager, bbs, modem, car, isdn, pcs. As shown in the last example above, a tel may have multiple types. See hCard: Type Subproperty Values for the official list.


Mark up representative image(s) of the person/org with the class name "photo", e.g.:

<img class="photo" src="http://www.factorycity.net/images/avatar.jpg" alt="" />

If your name is not already marked up (see the Names section above), and your first and last name consist of only two words, you can set the alt attribute for the image as your name. In this case, include the "fn" class name along with the "photo" class name in the class attribute:

<img class="photo fn" src="http://www.factorycity.net/images/avatar.jpg" alt="Chris Messina" />

To ensure that the picture is not left out whenever a hcard is converted into a vcard, the external URI should be replaced with the actual encoded picture data as follows:

<img alt="photo" class="photo" src="data:image/jpeg;base64,/9j/4AAQSkZJRgAB[...]RRxTwKpCP//Z" />

An easy way to encode a contact picture is to use some application which can export vcard files including contact picture, as the freeware Palm Desktop does.

Geographic Coordinates

Add your geographic coordinates:

 <span class="geo">
  <span class="latitude">48.430092246</span>
  <span class="longitude">-123.364348450</span>

A more human friendly version would be implemented as follows:

<div class="geo">
<abbr class="latitude" title="-31.388333">31&deg;23&#39;18&quot;S</abbr>, 
<abbr class="longitude" title="-57.960556">57&deg;57&#39;38&quot;O</abbr>

That will look like this: 31°23'18"S, 57°57'38"O.

Note that the degree, minute and seconds characters should go encoded as in the source code example above to prevent that the browser to confuses the character encoding used by the page and shows wrong characters, like chinese characters where accents should be displayed.

A good place to get your coordinate values in both formats is Wikipedia. Look for the article on your city and click the human friendly coordinates to load a page with the decimal values.

Fragments and linking

An hCard is a logical piece of content that people might like to link to. If it's on a page with other content, it can be hard to link to just the one hCard, unless you have a fragment identifier to use. In HTML, you can create fragment identifiers by adding an 'id' attribute to any element. It is good practice to add an 'id' attribute to an hCard, e.g.

<span id="my-hCard" class="vcard">
 <a class="url fn" href="http://suda.co.uk">
  Brian Suda

Canonical hCard within a site

Nearly every social website has profile URLs for its members, typically with hCard.

Most of the pages on such websites link those canonical user profile URLs on the site itself with the icon and/or name the user. It makes sense to explicitly markup those links with both class names "url" and "uid", e.g. on a list of Twitter friends (note the additional use of the XOXO microformat) that might be hosted on Twitter itself:

<ul class="xoxo">
 <li class="vcard">
  <a class="url uid" href="http://twitter.com/briansuda">
   <img class="fn logo" src="b-icon.jpg" alt="Brian Suda" />
 <li class="vcard">
  <a class="url uid" href="http://twitter.com/pspmikek">
   <img class="fn logo" src="m-icon.jpg" alt="Michael Kaply" />
  <a class="url uid" href="http://twitter.com/t">
   <img class="fn logo" src="t-icon.jpg" alt="Tantek Çelik" />

Another example: event sites that list and link to user profiles of the people attending an event (e.g. Upcoming.org).

URL of an hCard being the page itself

The canonical hCard within a site (as noted above) often has hCard markup itself, and it's useful to markup the page itself as the URL for that hCard.

So how do you markup the URL of an hCard where the URL is the page itself?

A few variants have been observed in real-world publishing, each of which implies a solution:

  1. Profile self-hyperlinking with name/photo. Many (most?) hcard-supporting-user-profiles sites hyperlink the person's name (e.g. Myspace irhetoric) and/or image (e.g. Upcoming tantek) on their profile to the profile itself. This is a common design pattern. In this case the answer is obvious: simply add class="url uid" to the existing self-hyperlink.
  2. Profiles with a "profile" link and/or dynamic content. Some sites have a "Profile" navigation link which is clickable even on the profile itself (e.g. on Twitter login and go to your profile). In some cases the "Profile" link is highlighted among other navigation links to indicate that it's what is currently visible among the nav options (e.g. last.fm - login and go to your profile). Both of these sites have dynamic content on profile pages, and thus could also label such self-hyperlinks with text like "Reload" or "Refresh" - accurately indicating to the user that when they clicked the link, it wouldn't change the URL in their browser address bar, but would reload the page, likely visibly updating the page. In both these cases, the answer is the same as the first case above: simply add class="url uid" to the existing self-hyperlink.
  3. Profiles without apparent self-hyperlinks. Some sites' profile pages (e.g. Flickr tantek) have no self-hyperlink, possibly because their content is more static, and a visible self-hyperlink would appear to "do nothing" when clicked, either frustrating the user, or making them think the site was broken. For these sites, the author can include an empty hyperlink with an empty href attribute (which is resolved as a relative URL to the page itself) to provide an invisible hyperlink to the page itself which is thus both not typically clickable (since it takes up no space), nor has any content which could be erroneously read by a screen reader. E.g. <a class="url" href=""></a>. This authoring suggestion is probably good enough to handle this third, perhaps rarest case, though it would be useful to to have some test cases that can be run in various browsers / assistive technologies to see what they do. Another (lengthier) suggestion would be to use value-class-pattern value-title technique, e.g.: <span class="url uid"><span class="value-title" title="http://example.com/user/john"> </span></span>.

More tips and guidelines

Feel free to add more tips that experience has taught you while marking up hCards, even if all you add is a brief catch phrase that reminds you.

  • How to note some text, so you can make a comment like who your admin assistant is.
  • More inline code examples, perhaps one for each section (suggestion from Cdevroe)
  • (suggestion from brian) you mention blogroll, this might be out of scope, but you could mention that XFN and hCard can be interweaved - it is not one or the other
  • ...

Related Pages

The hCard specification is a work in progress. As additional aspects are discussed, understood, and written, they will be added. These thoughts, issues, and questions are kept in separate pages.