Don’t do that: Important text hidden in an image

Close your eyes and think about an image. What are you thinking about? A picture with two laughing children blowing on dandelions? A picture of a happy couple in a gondola in Venice? A peaceful scene showing a farm house in a valley with a field of sunflowers?  All those images sound lovely, I bet you aren’t thinking about a bunch of text and numbers. Why then do so many websites insist on displaying text and numbers in images?  Is this always bad? When is it acceptable?

Let’s look at an example of text hidden on an image. DC Web Design | Maryland Internet Marketing, Spring Insight


Look familiar? That is taken from the Spring Insight homepage. That text though isn’t what I would call critical text. It is marketing text and the fact that a search engine can’t read it isn’t going to make much difference for the ranking of the site. In addition, it isn’t something a viewer is going to be searching a page to find.

Let’s look at another example.

A Message From MaraNatha Foods | MaraNatha


This is a snippet from a much longer list that appears on MaraNatha food website that lists items that are recalled. The list is not in any particular order and is about 40 items long. How is someone to find whether the product they purchased is on the list? Well, the most logical way to do that would be to do a search of the page for the UPC code. Darn it! Can’t do that since the information is presented as an image.

Summary: Pictures of kittens, puppies and babies? Images are great! Picture of a design with some marketing text included as well? Images are ok. Picture of important recall information or really anything people should be reading? Images are not the way to communicate that!