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Make Sure Search Engines Can Read Your Web Site

Do you know whether the search engines, whose crawlers and spiders scour the Web for text to index, can read your site?

Recently I was consulting on the creation of a Web site for a visual artist. The Web designer wanted the text to be rendered in a beautiful font, but the only way to control that was by setting the text in a graphic--essentially turning it into a picture. That means all the text throughout the site would be images, even if users see words.

What my client didn't know was that text rendered as a graphic is unsearchable by users who may want to search a page for a particular word or topic, and unindexable by search engines that control where you come up in the rankings. And although the designer knew these things, his goal was to create a good-looking site. He was ready to sacrifice function for form.

After much debate, we decided to err on the side of function and chose a Web-friendly font (Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana and Helvetica are a few).

So here's the tip: For optimum usability, make sure the majority of your text is rendered as html text, not as graphics. Graphics are fine for headlines, but don't use them for entire blocks of text.

Ilise Benun is the author of Designing Web Sites for Every Audience and director of New Jersey-based consultancy Creative Marketing and Management.

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