Text Only Websites Suck

No text only websites!

‘The RNIB encourages the design of websites that practice ‘universal design’ or ‘design for all’. That is, a single version of the website which is accessible to everyone, no matter how they access the Web. This is made possible by the extensive accessibility features designed into HTML 4. The W3C recommend a text only page only as a last resort.’

In most circumstances there is no need to create a separate text-only version of a website.

Unless database content management is being used, the creation of an additional text-only version simply doubles the work involved in updating or amending the site, and often leads to an increasingly useless version of the site, with time constraints resulting in the graphic version being updated regularly while the text-only version is neglected and becomes more and more out of date. The creation of a text-only version should be seen only as a final option when all other alternatives for making the site accessible have been exhausted.

Accessible pages needn’t be bland! They can be well designed, attractive and interactive, while at the same time providing access for everyone.

Separate design from content using HTML & CSS and you effectively build a text only website, but when attached to your tailored style sheet, becomes an attractively designed website page.

UK Government recommendations:

Alternative text-only pages should rarely be necessary and are not best practice. If text-only pages are used it is essential that their content is as complete and comprehensive as graphic content and is updated simultaneously with graphic content.

Guidelines for UK Government websites
Illustrated handbook for Web management teams

Further Reading

Update – Mobile Websites SEO

Does your mobile site redirect to another URL? Well, that’s not ideal. It never has been.

Way back in the day – some folk used TEXT-ONLY versions of a website to produce content for users/browsers that didn’t support elements of their websites – in a (usually vain) attempt to make their content more accessible. The W3C even used to recommend it I think if all else failed:

A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only pages shall be updated whenever the primary page changes. SECTION 508

It’s ALWAYS been ideal to deliver one URL to a visitor for accessibility purposes, and there is no difference when delivering mobile or smartphone content if you are thinking about creating “a mobile” version of your site.

When Google is the ‘visitor’ it’s usually even more important to deliver just one URL because of canonical url challenges for search engines – and this has been the case before the implementation of the canonical tag some time ago.

So the ideal is - to deliver one url at all times.

Seroundtable picked this up from the forums from John Mueller (Google Employee) which confirms this:

John Mueller – @Paul If you have “smartphone” content (which we see as normal web-content, as it’s generally a normal HTML page, just tweaked in layout for smaller displays) you can use the rel=canonical to point to your desktop version. This helps us to focus on the desktop version for web-search. When users visit that desktop version with a smartphone, you can redirect them to the mobile version. This works regardless of the URL structure, so you don’t need to use subdomains / subdirectories for smartphone-mobile sites. Even better however is to use the same URLs and to show the appropriate version of the content without a redirect :).

In today’s world with smart phones – it’s not always necessary to have a mobile “site”. For me, the benefits of a smart phone when used, are usually for download speeds and easy access for mobiles and to bypass loading heavy, rich content some websites have. Not everone has 3g.

I am certainly going to take advantage of the benefits of a mobile theme. I’ve tested a few and I think i know which one i like. I’ll post a blog when I confirm.

Mobile use is picking up – it’s worth thinking about your mobile strategy, too, and that it needs to work with humans and search engines.

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