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Thread: Images or text

  1. #1
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    Aug 2013
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    Images or text

    My designer has a penchant for making everything an image. Nav and banners that could easily be html but utilize a slightly different font are made images because "that's what the client expects".

    Aside from load times is there any reason to push for html vs images with alt tags? SEO? Screen readers? Semantics?

  2. #2
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    One obvious issue is search engines. Search engines don't scan images as text, although they do consider the content of the 'alt' attribute to differing degrees when it comes to rankings. So, if the text is an important part of the content of the page that you want search engines to consider, you're always better off with plain text than with an image. Further, Google is also considering page load times in their ranking methods to a limited degree, and images are naturally much slower to load than the equivalent text as long as you're using a standard/common font family. Even if you choose a special font that has to be downloaded separately, there are ways of keeping the overhead within reason.

    All that said, I wouldn't fault a designer for using an image to present some limited amounts of text if it was impossible or impractical to create the same effect with plain text and CSS. I'd just be heavily biased in favor of real text. In your case, I think you have to determine if the designer is using images as a tool or a crutch.

  3. #3
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    Nice ..
    Thanks..
    -

  4. #4
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    Great reply rtrethewey. I'm catching that it's mostly an SEO issue which I would have expected. Seems odd that search engines would give much weight to alt tags at all given the current state of meta tags (i.e. hidden tags) though I guess alt tags aren't quite as 'unseen' as metas.

  5. #5
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    You're on the right track. The 'alt' attribute was originally intended to provide a way to describe the image for visually impaired users and those running with plain text browsers or running with images disabled (harkening back to the Dark Ages when Internet connections were so slow that even simple pages could take a minute or two to load). Search engines started to consider them when they started to create their image search services since they were the only way to categorize them. Their use of the 'alt' attribute for text search is a relatively new practice, and the impact is fairly limited unless you try to stuff them with keywords. If you cross that line, you can really damage your rankings. Overall, it's just good practice to use the 'alt' attribute appropriately - make your point clearly and concisely and get out.

  6. #6
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    And then there is a third option. Start with the thing in HTML, something that works well in Lynx, and then use CSS to set a background image and hide the text. The possibilities are endless. See http://www.csszengarden.com/ .
    “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
    —Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

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