The Lynx Manifesto

Enough's enough. The World-Wide Web promises a new way to let people communicate. But too many Web designers are being bewitched by "multimedia" - they load their sites with gigantic graphics, embedded sound clips and animation.

There's nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes. But increasingly, these Web designers are forgetting to include Lynx, one of the first Web browsers, in their HTML code.

But Netscape is so cool

Yes, but not everybody can, or even wants to, use Netscape or Mosaic. Some of us are quite happy with our 286s and 386s and see no reason to spend several hundred dollars to upgrade to Windows. Some of us are blind and can't use a graphical interface. And some of us realize that, freed from the dependence on increasingly complex graphics, Lynx offers a faster way to find information on the Internet than Netscape or Mosaic.

Making a Web site Lynx friendly doesn't mean giving up all those snazzy graphics. HTML includes simple ways for designers to show a text message to Lynx users where Netscape users would see a picture. Text tool bars or links to text-only pages are other ways to ensure that Lynx users can navigate a site. Note: Joe Creighton and friends have even come up with a way to make image maps Lynx-friendly.

That's all we're asking.

Some specific tips

Web servers can tell whether a browser is requesting images. Because of this, HTML lets Web designers display text when a browser does not grab images, via "ALT" statements. Exactly how a conscientous Web designer uses these statements depends on whether they want to give Lynx users the chance to download the image for later viewing or whether it would make more sense to simply eliminate any Lynx reference to the image.

For the former, an example would be:

    <img src="image.gif" ALT="This is a picture of Henry VIII">

The latter is best employed for inline icons, for example:

    <img src="redball.gif" ALT="">

ALT="" will eliminate entirely those annoying [IMAGE] statements that only Lynx users have to endure.

Image maps are another issue designers have to consider. It is nice that Netscape and Mosaic users can select things by positioning their cursors over specific locations on an image. But Lynx users see only [ISMAP] and if they try to click on that, they get an error statement.

To compensate for this, good designers will insert an ALT="" statement in their image-map tag and, more important, create a text-based toolbar somewhere on their page that lets non-graphical users navigate the site.

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