Imageless browsing, 2007

Due to some issues with my ISP at home, I’ve temporarily shut off images in my Firefox installation. It doesn’t take long for me to realize just how much I appreciate them, especially at the level of little icons.

It actually causes some readability issues. For instance, on, the image alternate text is larger than the size of the icon in many respects. (Note: Another instance occurs in my weblog, where I can’t see the “Logout” link in the page where I’m writing this very entry!)

To really get the feel for it, I think the web community at large should pick a day (say, April 30, two weeks hence), where advanced users turn off their image browsing for that day and see how it impacts their day-to-day operations. In particular, web designers could take a look at their own pages with images off. Looking at other websites, well, please be polite and considerate of the site designers. This is a suggested evangelism effort.

Note I’m excluding image hosting websites and image “portals” (for which the lack of images would defeat their whole purpose of existence). So don’t yell at me about the Hubble Space Telescope. Your favorite web comics should probably be excluded for the same reason. In short, where a picture or image is the overall goal, there’s no point in getting upset about it.

Is this an unrealistic request in the days of broadband Internet access? I don’t think so, since a large percentage of the public still use dial-up (NetZero, PeoplePC anyone?) Images eat bandwidth – not as much as movies, of course, but still a sizable portion.

What do you think, as a member of the community at large? I just think it’s worth taking a survey of the Web, and seeing it how we used to ten years ago, as we downloaded images

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. Just how much do we rely on them now, and is it too much?

9 thoughts on “Imageless browsing, 2007”

  1. Another ‘fun’ thing to do is invert the default colors – as in bg is black and text is white. This breaks quite a few sites, including gmail, which doesn’t define text color in all places (resulting in white-on-white text).

  2. Hmm, I wonder if it would be useful to have an extension that would load only images which (1) had a CSS height/width set and (2) that size was below, say, 16×16. Seems like this would help with sites using various small images in their layout (rounded corners, tabs, etc)… You’d get the benefits of disabling most images, but sites wouldn’t look as bad (in theory).

  3. I’ve tried using different colours for a while myself. It’s amazing how much stuff breaks in it.
    And thanks for pointing this out, looks like my own pages could use a bit of work.

  4. I don’t think there is much point in disabling images. My ISP has 3 million broadband users and just 73 thousand dialup users (source: ), and most of those will be light users so won’t account for many hits to your website.
    More useful would be to turn off all css and images and see what the web is like then – because that is how blind people and bots see your pages.

  5. Well, Ian Thomas, look at a map of the US and see how much of it is rural and simply can’t get broadband for a reasonable price. You ought to try using dialup service. It makes a lot of commercial Web sites almost impossible to use. If I were stuck in that situation, I would call your 800 number instead.
    Some sites are very slow even with broadband because they’re loaded up with useless images.

  6. Images are on top of the list of what makes a web site functional. Does your navigation depend on it? The suggested color changes are another way of testing this. My ultimate test for functionality is usually switching of all the CSS styles and/or disabling JavaScript. Pretty amazing how many sites you cannot really use after that.

  7. How about a JavaScript-less Friday, and another Java-less Friday?
    (From Alex: One step at a time. 🙂 )

  8. As a site visitor, I usually get more annoyed with sites overloaded with javascript, which usually brings the browser on its knees, and there aren’t provisions for the site to actually work without it.
    As for my blog, I designed it to be image- (bar a couple of badges or three) and javascriptless, but that’s mainly because I totally suck at both of them 😉
    I don’t feel I miss anything, but I don’t think I can represent an average person surfing a mainstream site, so you can safely ignore me.

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