Why I don't like imagemaps

An ill-chosen word is a fool's messenger.
- traditional
What about an ill-chosen picture?
- me
Many people use imagemaps ("clickable pictures") in their home pages. I hate them. Instead of a high-resolution colour picture that doesn't display properly on my monochrome monitor and takes a minute to load even under the best of all possible conditions, a few dozen words could nicely describe where each link leads. A sentence is worth ten thousand pixels -- and it is cheaper, too.

Currently, imagemaps are implemented by the servers they reside on; the mapping relation is not part of the document at hand, but implemented by the dark magic of a cgi script that transforms a set of coordinates to a link according to a rule base. Thus, the user has absolutely no feedback as to what to expect when she clicks on the image. When doing the click on an imagemap, I sometimes feel as if I were jumping from a springboard into a pool - at night.

Also, there is the phenomenon of image-map-based links: i sometimes see links of the form "http://www.foo.bar/baz?27346,7465", i.e. links to points on an image-map. Every time a user access this link, she has to hope that the underlying map hasn't been updated in between, and that the mapping script doesn't take too long.

Don't take me wrong, there are applications for imagemaps: map servers, interactive Rubik's Cubes, many games. These are all fine with me. But to serve as a graphically enhanced front for ordinary HTML pages is a mis-use.

The following specimen nicely demonstrates most of the problems associated with the medium:

[Enter return to see the text-based index. You haven't missed much.]

(Doesn't it look entirely horrible? I am so proud of it! It contains 9 genuine links.)


(15.06.95) In case you don't believe that anyone would create such a map for real, look at the entrace page of the ISODE Consortium. All the elements are there: graphics that add no useful contents, but force a convolved text layout; 45 degree slanted text, and the occasional logo and picture thrown in. Plus the added thoughtlessness that parts of the map are nearly illegible on a b/w screen.
Thanks to jutta for bringing this to my attention!

(16.06.95: still as ugly as then)


(16.05.95) At last, there is some help. The new <img> tag proposed for HTML 3 has some imagemap features as well - a standard menu can be defined as the "replacement text" for an image, and position markers can be put in the URLs to refer to regions in the image.
This page is part of the Rant Space.