I recently had a client who had her website that was under development reviewed by another web design firm, and one of their suggestions was to change all the text navigation links from text to images. Is this a good idea?
Many web designers, especially graphic designers, will often use images (buttons, tabs, etc) as their navigation links. I will always start with text links unless clients explicitly ask for images because the Google Webmaster Guidelines state under Design and Content Guidelines:
Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the “ALT” attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.
Therefore, for the best search engine performance – not to mention to save my client the time and expense of creating button images (and then hover images for them) – I always start with plain boring but very search engine friendly text links for navigation. If clients ask for “buttons” I explain the disadvantages from an SEO standpoint and additional cost of adding buttons versus text links, but will certainly add then if they want them.
So that’s my rationale, I pick Google over aesthetics. Yes, there are ways to make text looks look like buttons using stylesheets with nice faded background images that look like rounded buttons, but again, this takes time, and my clients are focused on cost. So I always offer the lowest cost solution first because I think small business website owners should be given low cost choices that are search engine friendly and easy to maintain.
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.