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§ Accessibility · Design thinking

Just been finishing off a contract left over from before my move to Multimap (going very well thank you). I’m building a site for a client (thanks Carbon) with a traditional heirarchical navigation, however the client insists that all their navigation be images. Top level nav, section level nav, sub nav and headings. Here’s all the reasoning they’ve ignored as to why images of text are a Bad Idea.

  • Images on pages increase download time, not just through the extra bytes to get hold of but also through server connections. JavaScript rollovers double the number of images to download and perform a function that CSS can handle quite adequately. The JavaScript code itself will represent more to download, often in the form of another file.
  • Images are difficult to maintain. Any wording changes to navigation and page titles, including new pages, will mean new images to be created.
  • Graphics cannot be read by search engines. This is particularly pertinent for intra-site search engines when page titles are graphics.
  • Graphics cannot be translated (by software such as at Google). If official translations are required then heaps of graphics are likely to be needed.
  • Graphics are inherently inaccessible. Computers cannot read them or scale them (apart from Opera).

There are a few reasons in favour of using images of text:

Anti-aliased text. Yep making graphics means you can display anti-aliased text which I’ll concede often looks better. However modern Macs and Windows machines natively anti-alias real text (albeit Windows only does so with large or small text when using low or modest resolutions). Every typographer will tell you it’s the small details that make the difference and I’d be the first to agree; but are accessibility and searchability really such small details that they can be ignored?

Branding. Sure, type faces are part of your branding considerations. They are a small part. Even the logo is only a small part; it is more corporate identity than brand. Branding is about experience. It’s about colours and layout, it’s about tone of voice and customer service. Branding is about creating an emotional attachment to your company and can be introduced and reinforced in so many more effictive ways than using a picture of Rotis instead of real Arial or Helvetica.