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Dealing With Image Maps

by Adam C. Engst <ace@tidbits.com>

Comments in favor of appropriate use of graphics on Web sites continue to pour in, and two of them offer suggestions for reducing the problems caused by large image map graphics that prevent navigation of a site by users who can't or don't view graphics.

Tony Grant <tg001@dial.oleane.com> passes on a tip from Bill Shackleton that involves some extra work, but ensures that access to an image map-based site is at least possible, if not elegant, without graphics.

First, create a small, single-color GIF file (say, two pixels by two pixels). Make it transparent, which renders it invisible to users who have graphics turned on. Then, for every link in your image map, place an <IMG> tag for a copy of this invisible graphic on the line below the image map's HTML. Link each invisible GIF to its eventual destination, and, most important, create a descriptive ALT attribute for each one.

The end result is that in a browser that doesn't support graphics, has graphics turned off, or (less commonly but more importantly) uses a text-to-speech converter, the ALT text stands in for the graphical navigation controls in the image map.

Drew D. Saur <dsaur@spectra.net> points out:

I read your recent TidBITS article on the redesign of your Web page, and there's one problem with your discussion of image maps. Two weeks ago, Foteos Macrides released Lynx 2.6, which now supports client-side image maps (and quite elegantly, too, I might add). Lynx is still freely available, and people should ask that their system administrators upgrade. There's no excuse not to implement client-side image maps any more, since it's possible to implement them while still implementing standard image maps - all without cluttering Web pages with redundant links.

<http://www.nyu.edu/pages/wsn/subir/lynx.html>