In Praise of Image Maps.
As many of you know, I write a lot about internet, marketing and advertising.
And when you spend that much time writing about internet, marketing and
advertising, it can be difficult not to constantly whine about internet,
marketing and advertising. So this one is for all the techno-geeks out there.
Today, we're gonna get all those juices flowing with an issue that I
know hits close to home with all you digital Da Vinci's that simply can't
get over the fact that the internet is, above all, an extremely graphical
Today, we're singing the praises of image maps.
For those of you who are too embarrassed to raise your hand at the staff
meeting and ask, an image map is a graphic on a website that contains links
to different parts of the web site. By clicking on different parts of the
graphic, you go to different parts of the site.
Sure, you've got your text link here and your rollover JPG's, but let's
face it: when it comes to ease of use and fabomundo sites, image maps are
where it's at.
Yeah, I know that there are thousands of reasons NOT to use them, but
being the visually-oriented pig that I am, I'm here to give you the why's
and why not's of using them. Read on and in a manner of minutes you'll be
able to print out this column, go running down the hall and wave it in front
of your webmaster's nose and yell, "See? I told you image maps were
the way to go!"
Image maps have gotten a really bad rap. Most people consider them to
be a lot like Cindy Crawford: really beautiful to look at, but actually
kind of slow. Well, that can be true. After all, a large graphic takes more
time to load than does a line of hyperlinked text. But you have to remember
that the less-than-desirable reputation endured by image maps has pretty
much been out of business since the introduction of modems capable of transfer
speeds faster than 9600 baud. Between new compression technologies and faster
modems, the "slow to load" argument has lost a lot of steam.
Unfortunately, a lot of people who have "slow load" on the
brain mistakenly avoid image maps by substituting a bunch of teeny-weeny
graphics (hey, that's the official term for them -- look it up). You see
this most often in framed sites, usually located on the left side, in the
vertical "table of contents" frame. Right?
How often do you sit there and watch the buttons or bars pop on to the
screen one at a time?
Well, I've got news for you. If those buttons were actually one image
map, the whole bar would not only load at once, it would also load faster.
The reason is that the combined weight of separate image files often exceeds
the total weight of a single image map graphic.
Betcha didn't know that, eh? Now aren't you glad you showed up to this
Here's another reason why image maps can load faster: most hosting servers
are a lot like really stupid shoe salesmen. Picture yourself telling the
guy you want brown penny loafers in a size ten. Then picture the guy running
back behind the curtain and bringing out a pair of white cordovans. Then
back behind the curtains. Then out again with black wingtips.
Getting the idea? Wouldn't it be a lot faster if he just made one trip
behind the curtain and dumped all the shoes at your feet? Well, that's the
efficiency you gain with an image map: one trip to the server, one trip
back and you're done.
Yet another reason I like image maps is that they allow you to express
your site's personality more effectively than just about than anything else.
It's true. Look at any site's home page image map and you have a cyber-Polaroid
of that company's mental processes. It tells you how they want to be perceived
and what they think is important.
Finally, I want to stress that despite the beauty, communication and
ease of use they provide, image maps will never be able to do the job by
themselves. You'd have to be a dope NOT to include redundant text hyperlinks
on every single page of your sites. And NOT just for the slow-pokes' sake.
There are tons of fed-up netheads who simply turn off graphics because they
find them annoying. Hey, their money's as good as anyone's -- give them
their text links.
Now print this out and go running down the hall.
©1997, Rob Frankel