The Impact of Text vs. Graphics

By Deane Barker on January 3, 2004

Does the graphic content (or lack thereof) of a site contribute to a feeling of dynamism by site visitors?

When I visit a site heavy on the graphics and Flash, I get a feeling that the site is stagnant, because, as a Web developer, I know how much inertia is involved with changing that stuff. Text, on the other hand, is quick and easy to change, and it imparts the ability for a content development team to react quickly to new information.

Even menus: one of my clients wants me to make the menu options on his site graphical. But it bothers me because I think it makes a site look…slow, portly, lethargic. Text menus, on the other hand, contribute to feeling of agility, reaction, speed. You can slap a new text option on a site quickly in the event you need it. Graphics require a designer to crack open Photoshop or Flash or God knows what.

Is it just me, or does this make sense to anyone else?



  1. Car guys have an old saying – “If it don’t go, chrome it”.

    For me it applies to web sites too, but heavy graphics always seem to impress some people. Moreso if they’re looking at other sites for ideas…I think it’s easier to be impressed by graphics and Flash when you’re in an “evaulative” mode rather than a “use” mode.

    But that’s hard to communicate at times.

    Simplicity is deceptively hard to get, and keep.

  2. I agree with your comments, but the one aspect I’m looking at here is the feeling about the…speed and agility, of your site that a visitor gets.

    Some sites I go to, they just look…slow. I don’t get the impression that they’re (1) up-to-date, or (2) getting updated regularly. Then there are sites like Boing Boing, Slashdot, and — yes — this site, that just look like a hive of activity.

    Maybe that has more to do with the blog format and less to do with graphics and such, but still, when I look at a graphic-heavy site, my first thought is of the change process overhead involved with rolling out new content. Ergo, given that overhead, my impression is that the sites are…well, slow.

  3. I think the key to graphics on a website is that they are used to support the content on the site, rather than “make it flashy”.

    I’ve noticed that MSN have changed all their navigation bars to text with clever css, giving the appearance of graphics. Still leaving room, however, for easy updates and changes.

  4. I think graphics are cooler than text, and graphics catch the eye of people more than text do. Too much graphics can make a page look not professional, but too much text can turn people away. That’s why there must be a balance between graphics and text.

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