Exploring the Path to England

 

Exploring the Path to England

Recently, I have taken some time to explore the changes made to medart’s menu page for England (menuengland). Some of the most drastic changes to medart occurred on this page. In the earliest snapshot we have of menuengland from 12.25.1996 the user had to navigate to the images they wanted through a map. The user had to click on the location of whichever monument they wanted images of. They did have a link to an alphabetic site list one could choose as an alternative to the map. In 2000, they increased the size of the map and made the alternative site list a more prominent feature on the site. By 2008, the map had been eradicated and the only navigation option was through the site list. I wanted to dig deeper into the reasons these changes were made and discovered a number of possibilities. My understanding is that the map used on the menuengland page of medart from 1996-2008 is an image map. One definition of an image map “is a list of coordinates relating to a specific image, created in order to hyperlink areas of the image to different destinations (as opposed to a normal image link, in which the entire area of the image links to a single destination),” (Wikipedia 2016). This essentially is what the map on menuengland does. There have been two different types of image maps. Server-side image maps were the first type and were used starting in 1993. The second type of image map is a client-side image map, and those were used starting in January of 1997. Therefore, we can assume that at least at first menuengland was using a server-side image map. I’m a little fuzzy on the different between a server-side and client-side image map, but I think it has to do with how the browser finds the URL you’ve clicked on within the image map. People had a lot of trouble with server-side image maps, because the browser didn’t always understand where to send the user. Now if you happen to see an image map on the web (the sites I was on seemed to scoff at the continued use of image maps and referred to them as “mystery-meat navigation”) it’s almost always client-side (Bloom). The modifications to menuengland happened primarily in 1998 (35%), 2000 (21%), and 2001 (38%). After 2001 it was only modified once each in 2008 and 2009 and then twice in 2014 that I can tell. The modifications may have been more frequent in 1998 because they were switching to the newly invented client-side image map. Then in 1999 the Web Content Access Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 was published. WCAG 1.0 mentions image maps quite a bit, because they are inaccessible to someone using a keyboard. They recommend web developers provide a text equivalent when using an image map (W3C 1999). This could explain the changes in 2000 and 2001. In 2000, they changed menuengland by enlarging the map and making the site list (their alternative to the image map) more prominent. Previously, the site list was at the bottom of the page, and after 2000 it was moved to the top of the page and enlarged. They also added an option to explore the sites by category. This may have been an attempt to better comply with the WCAG or at least to make the site more accessible. The image map was not fully removed until 2008. From the Wayback Machine I can tell the image map was removed sometime between 5/9/2008 and 12/16/2008. However, upon looking at the metadata I was able to find an exact date since there was only one modification in 2008: 10/7/2008. This is very near to when WCAG 2.0 was published (December 11, 2008). WCAG 2.0 similarly condemned image maps and urged web developers to provide alternatives to users who needed assistive technologies to use a computer (W3C 2008). Medart removed the image map prior to the release of WCAG 2.0, but if it was a hot topic at the time they may still have removed it for accessibility reasons. They replaced the image map with a site list organized alphabetically and created an identical one for menufrance. Connecting the actions of the creators of medart to what was going on in the world of web development is both enlightening and exciting. Adding that context gives the changes made to medart more meaning. The changes they made to menuengland were likely not made on a whim to improve aesthetics or style but instead to improve the accessibility of the site and extend its usefulness to more people. References Bloom, Zack. “A Quick History of Image Maps.” Eager. Accessed November 28, 2016. https://eager.io/blog/a-quick-history-of-image-maps/. W3C. 1999. “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” Last modified May 5, 1999. http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10. W3C. 2008. “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.” Last Modified December 11, 2008. http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/. Wikipedia. 2016. “Image Map.” Last modified November 11, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_map.

Categories: 
  • Sustaining DH
  • Sustaining MedArt
  • Graduate Work
  • VMW