W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > August 1996

Re: Images as alternatives to text instead of the reverse

From: Chris Lilley <Chris.Lilley@sophia.inria.fr>
Date: Wed, 21 Aug 1996 17:19:07 +0200 (DST)
Message-Id: <9608211719.ZM29012@grommit.inria.fr>
To: Douglas Rand <drand@sgi.com>, Ka-Ping Yee <kpyee@aw.sgi.com>, www-style@w3.org
Cc: Stephanos Piperoglou <stephanos@hol.gr>
On Aug 21, 10:52am, Douglas Rand wrote:

> I'd like to say quite the opposite.  The usage of images is not a whim
> of the document designer.  It isn't really equivalent to put text in
> place of an image either.  And it isn't "stylistic" to me.

The point under discussion was not all images, but specifically the ones where
an image was used to do fancy text, drop-shadowed headings, and the like.

> the IMG tag isn't a particularly guilty member.  Images are content,  they
> are not presentation.  Images are not directly replacable by text when
> they are used for navigation,  nor does all the information in the image
> get conveyed when the alternative text is put in place of the image.

I would be the last to argue against images in general, since I am the W3C's
Graphics Guy and before that worked at the Computer Graphics Unit at UofM.
Images are great, images are good. However, *some* images are a stylistic
alternative to text and it was that class of images that was being discussed.

> Think of the alternative text as more of a hack

ALT is certainly a hack ;-) since you can't put any mark-up in it.

> to get around poor bandwidth of connections,  or the lack of richness
> in a user agent which is rendering to a text terminal.

Alternative textual information is certainly useful in some circumstances, and
you list two. There are not many actual ye olde texte terminals used to browse
the web, often the text is being rendered on something like an xterm / winterm
so the display device can actually do graphics. For example, I do sometimes run
a text browser on my Indigo2/Impact which can do graphics quite well ;-)

Search and indexing engines are another good reason to provide textual
representations, especially if people are using images as their major headings.

It is interesting to note that other classes of device - speech renderers,
mobile organiser-phones and PDAs - also need a textual rendering of a page, and
these two classes of device are on the increase. When your display is 128x256
pixels monochrome and your net connection is aGSM mobile phone, text is king.

There is also interest in spoken presentation for browser on set-top boxes,
because reading a whole bunch of text off a TV from several feet away is a real
bad idea.



-- 
Chris Lilley, W3C                          [ http://www.w3.org/ ]
Graphics and Fonts Guy            The World Wide Web Consortium
http://www.w3.org/people/chris/              INRIA,  Projet W3C
chris@w3.org                       2004 Rt des Lucioles / BP 93
+33 93 65 79 87            06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Wednesday, 21 August 1996 11:19:39 GMT

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