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Old 2nd February 2006, 04:20 AM   #1
codeplacidly
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Default What would you fix first?

If you were asked to work on a website that had a javascript menu, no sitemap on the frontpage, next to no text on the frontpage and navigation mainly provided (apart from the javascripted menu) by image maps, what would you change first?

I've already advised use of alt tags for images - do title tags work within elements of an image map? I confess that it's not an approach I've ever undertaken (background here is that I usually do the back end of websites, the coding and management, I tend to stay well away from the design, but I've started work for a new company with a, well shall we say, poor, website and I'm trying to offer the webmaster some advice).

Grateful for any swift pointers - I understand the concept that accessibility also tends to mean a well optimised website for search engines (in fact, I was rather surprised to read that described as a startling revelation - is it all that startling? Seems obvious to me) and I'm working on improving accessibility - I'm just not quite sure where to start!

Jax

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Old 2nd February 2006, 04:43 AM   #2
Old Welsh Guy
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The ethos I have is that all the optimisation in the world means squat if the site can not be spidered, so getting it spidered is the most important thing. the ONLY time I put something ahead of that is if the site is at risk of a penalty for some bad practices like hidden text cloaking etc, when I will make it safe before opening it upo to the search engines.

While a site map is good, it does not do the same job as a decent navigation system (and also prevents it being used by some screen readers etc), so depending on the volume of pages I would consider a small sitemap at the foot of every page and also a proper detailed sitemap linked to from every page.

Alt tags are a must, not for SEO, but for usability best practice. The alt tag is ignored for SEO unless the image is a link. Title tags for images are no good for seo, but again there is no harm in using them.

Hope this helps

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Old 2nd February 2006, 04:55 AM   #3
codeplacidly
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Default thanks for the speedy response

I was attempting to summarise something very similar to your second paragraph in management speak - pleased to see someone put it so succinctly!

Basically, I'm thinking that while a site map assists with the technical aspects of spidering, it doesn't really describe the site structure in terms of page importance iyswim the way that you would want ppl to view it. Is that about right?

I really really want to rip the nasty purple javascript out...does it show?

Jax

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Old 2nd February 2006, 09:18 AM   #4
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I am with you on the javascript thing as well.

succinct is not a word used very often on my posts LOL.

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Old 3rd February 2006, 10:24 AM   #5
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Hi Jax,

I'm jumping in late here but if it helps any:

- my understanding is that the only place titles matter is in the head portion of the page ...
- for accessibility purposes, only use actual text in your alt tags where it makes sense to do so; where it doesn't make sense (ie. it doesn't add to the usability or content in any way), just put alt="" and the screen reader will skip over it and move on to the next piece of readable text.

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Old 3rd February 2006, 07:55 PM   #6
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Remember ... people first ...

How are the conversion rates from the site? Is it performing well for those visitors who manage to find it?

Determine what is working well before you gut the fish. You don't want to go backwards just for the sake of some search engine theory.

Once you've got a handle on what people like about the site, try to work around that without impacting it too much. For example, I'd see where I could minimize the use of images without changing anything about the look and feel. Often, an image map can be 'sliced' and you can then use CSS or a simple table to position the must-have images around what used to be the text content of the big image. Heck, slicing a big image is a good idea, anyway, as it improves the perception of the site's loading speed. Use the 'longdesc', 'alt' and 'title' properties in each IMG tag. While it's true that most SEs don't pay any attention unless the image is linked, some do, and more are starting to pay attention to 'longdesc' as time goes on.

Once you have trimmed out as much fat as you can without killing the golden goose, it's time to try and implement alternatives to the offensive bits that remain ... like the Javascript menu. By the way, Javascript menus can work very well and be very SE-friendly, so maybe it's the implementation that's bothering you. Don't forget the <noscript> menu ...

OWG had some good advice about site map links and Karri is correct about the 'alt' property, but it's not all about the SEs, and the 'alt' tag is still used by browsers like Lynx, among other non-graphical programs.
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while a site map assists with the technical aspects of spidering, it doesn't really describe the site structure in terms of page importance iyswim the way that you would want ppl to view it
Well ... it depends on the site map, I suppose. If you simply list each page, you're right ... no indication of importance and little indication of structure. The site map can be as informative as you'd like to make it, and doesn't need to be a 'traditional' site map at all. Take a look at the 'concept map' .. er .. concept from the IHMC (and maybe try their free tool). In that case, you end up with a type of image map, too, but it's easy enough to include the text-link version on the page, as well.

To sum up: Start by seeing what's working, try not to mess with it's forumla for success, but clean out the deadwood and tighten down the hatches, then work on revamping less-than-terrific features ... then start working on optimizing whatever content there is.

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Old 6th February 2006, 04:25 AM   #7
codeplacidly
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Default Thanks

didn't spot this over the weekend.

Lots of great advice - my difficulty is that I'm a programmer, and most of what you're talking about is only discussed by the marketing team.

I'm niggling away to find out what I can about what the site actually does for the company - my guess is a whole lot of nothing. There is next to no text content - you know it's time to worry when the person signing themselves webmaster sends an email out to the programming team asking if anyone knows anything about flash.

I've already suggested things like the <noscript> tags, sitemaps and so on...I suspect I'm going to be fighting a losing battle on much of the design aspects of it all - I think they like the look of the images.

Ah well, keeps me out of mischief.

Jax

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