WWW FAQ: How can I use inline images without alienating my users?


How can I use inline images without alienating my users?

If you pay any attention to comments from users of your web pages, you will quickly learn that 500K GIFs are only pretty to the four or five users who have a personal T1 line. I'm exaggerating, but not all that much. It's astonishing how many website producers have never tested their site through one of the 14.4kbps modems (that's only 1600 bytes per second on a good day, remember) that the actual customer is using.

But inline images can be useful, provocative and amusing. What can be done to make them available to those who can wait for them and unobtrusive to those who can't?

1. ALWAYS Provide alternatives to imagemaps
Even users who run Netscape often turn off image loading or don't want to wait long enough for an interlaced GIF to become recognizable on their screen in order to navigate your site. Always provide a set of text-based links to the same destinations.
2. Keep image file sizes modest
For ways to make your images download faster without throwing away image quality, see the guidelines maintained by the Bandwidth Conservation Society (URL is <URL:http://www.infohiway.com/way/faster> ).
3. Provide a text-only page
If you follow the guidelines above, you may not need to provide a text-only version of your page, but if you insist on having an image-heavy page, provide a plaintext page as well. Please consider the needs of blind users as well as those with limited bandwidth, and keep in mind that nearly all your users are in the latter category and will be for several years yet!
4. Use WIDTH and HEIGHT <IMG> attributes
Many browsers, especially Netscape, support the WIDTH and HEIGHT attributes to the <IMG> tag. By indicating the size of your image in the <IMG> tag, you let the browser format the entire page without waiting for that image to start downloading. This allows the user to read your page much sooner and makes images much less annoying. Tip: although Netscape supports scaling the image by specifying a WIDTH and HEIGHT that do not actually match the image size, using this feature is not recommended. Not all otherwise compatible browsers handle this scaling feature, and some older versions of Netscape have trouble with it also.

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