by Tim North, http://www.BetterWritingSkills.com
Images are used on web and intranet sites for many reasons:
branding, highlighting, navigation, providing supplementary
information, division, humour etc. Images consume more space than
text, however, and thus take a longer time to download.
On an intranet, this additional time is usually within acceptable
limits. On the web, however, where many people are limited to the
4-5 KB/s speed of a modem, images can cause long and frustrating
It follows that we should thus limit the unnecessary use of large
images. For example, a page that totals 50 KB (including text and
all images) may take over 10 seconds to fully appear when viewed
over a modem connection. It should be noted that readers in areas
not well served by Internet connections (e.g. rural areas) may
experience much longer delays.
Many users express great frustration at such delays, particularly
if they judge that the content was not worth the wait.
Here then are some guidelines for the use of images:
1. When writing for serious-minded, information-seeking readers,
we should ensure that all graphics on our pages are relevant
to the content. Graphics that add nothing are a waste of time
for these readers.
2. Limit the total content of most pages to no more than 50 KB.
Keep in mind that even this much may take over 10 seconds to
3. If you need to include a large image, display a thumbnail-
sized image instead, and link this to the larger image with a
message such as 'Click to view the full-sized (200 KB)
4. Minimise the use of animated GIFs (images that endlessly
cycle through a short animation.) Not only do these appear
garish (and frequently annoying), but they are larger than
still images and thus slower to appear.
5. Photographs will generally be smaller (and look better) if
saved in JPG format. Cartoon-like images, will generally be
smaller (and look better) if saved in GIF format. PNG (ping)
format is superior to both, but has not yet achieved wide
6. Provide ALT text for all non-trivial images; that is, a
textual equivalent that is used if the browser does not (or
cannot) display the image.
7. Most images will be more useful if accompanied by a caption.
If you can't think of a relevant caption, this may be a sign
that you don't need the image.
Armed with these tips, your pages will load quickly and will be
well regarded by your visitors.
You'll find many more helpful tips like these in Tim North's
much applauded range of e-books. FREE SAMPLE CHAPTERS are
available, and all books come with a money-back guarantee.
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