Is text only still relevant?

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This isn’t going to be a long post, as I don’t really have any answers…just a series of questions and assumptions…

My question is how relevant is a Text Only version of a website?

There maybe an obvious answer to this – Is this simply an admission that your website by default isn’t actually usable and accessible?

I’ve been thinking and chatting to my team about content strategy, user experience,  HTML 5 and responsive design and how this will change the way we think and design websites from the ground up…It is all very exciting but we also need to think the now, how do we build stuff today and what should we be including.

In Devon, our current corporate website has a text only version and if I’m honest I think it is a pretty poor presentation of the content and fails to really offer any advantage…and if we have simply designed a usable and accessible site all along we probably wouldn’t think about text only…

Our stats show that the text only version isn’t used much, if at all on most days…so this brings me back to the question…How relevant is Text Only?

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4 thoughts on “Is text only still relevant?

  1. Pete McClymont

    Well. I think we’re still “supposed” to aim to be accessible to all and that means catering for:

    – 56k modem
    – Windows 3.1
    – Netscape
    – user doesn’t know how to control browser

    I kid, a bit. Accessibility means more than designed for partially sighted users. It should cover people with redundant kit as much as mobile devices and HTML5.

    Your site should render well with stylesheets turned off, which is more or less what a text-only version is. I would have thought having a text-only version is not going to add any complexities to your code. I think it’s more or less out of the box with our CMS.

    And don’t forget, the best website in the world is vanilla: http://www.useit.com/

  2. Ruth Neubauer

    I totally agree with questioning Text Only versions of websites. By now everyone involved in website designing is so informed (by accessibility guidelines, by web standards, by best practises, etc… ) that we should assume it is possible to automatically have a website gracefully degrade itself to accomodate the various clients/users. Besides the common user and browser there are -) disabled users with or without assistive technology -) javascript/plugins/images disabled clients -) low bandwidth users and many more. But by design all these users/browsing clients should be catered for. The only thing really I can imagine useful is an option to change font sizes (for users with sight impairments, older users) or a low/high contrast version for dilexic users etc…
    Another question that I have had for quite a while now is: how relevant is CAPTCHA technology still? Is it really necessary still to let the user struggle with distorted images/audio in order to let them send a message via a form?

    • Thanks Ruth,

      I agree, designing accessible sites isn’t in question here, but i do question the validity of actually having an option which states “text only” seems pointless nowadays…I think responsive design approaches and good design full stop should mean that however someone wishes to view your site the content and the site still work and provide an excellent user experience.

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