As many of you know, there’s a big campaign brewing to get more people using Firefox. This post is my contribution to the effort.
Using images to display text has long been the bane of web designers. For starters, image tend to create an accessibility nightmare. A person with impaired vision will often use a screen reader application to view a website, but to my knowledge, there is no software in this category that can “read” an image. So in the interest of making websites acccessible to all, the web design community began seeking alternatives.
The most popular of these techniques, Fahrner Image Replacement, was created in 1999 and popularized by Doug Bowman in 2003. This technique, however, is not without its faults. It has been proven to fail in many screen readers. And just a year after Bowman’s tutorial on the technique was published, he “officially deprecated” the technique.
When this happened, the community was not extremely surprised. After all, it had been known for some time that FIR wasn’t 100% compatible with screen readers. But many were left wondering, “What next?” We needed an alternative, but that alternative was not readily apparent.
Since those days, however, it seems that a lot of work has been done to find the perfect solution. Dave Shea has a collection of examples for various techniques. Shaun Inman created the Inman Flash Replacement technique. And more recently, Inman collaborated with Mike Davidson and Tomas Jogin to create the sIFR technique.
I have yet to see a technique that is perfect. Some don’t comply with the web standards. Others don’t work with screen readers. I suspect that the perfect technique will be a holy grail of sorts. And until that technique comes along, use the technique that works best for your site.