Towards a Graphics-Free Web

Ian Lurie

Here’s a radical idea: The Internet would be better if designers worked to make it graphics-free.

Whoa, you say – I like all the pretty pictures. If there aren’t any graphics, it’ll be boring!

True enough. A graphics-free web is a goal, and like a lot of goals, you set it with the idea that your approach to that goal will be asymptotic. You’ll never get there.

But we can go back to the days when graphics were used only for presentation, and not as a layout or structural tool. Most web pages today use dozens of invisible ‘spacer’ gifs (including my company’s site, so I’m not feeling all that superior) to control spacing and position. They also use graphical lines for borders, boxes for backgrounds and who-knows-what-else.

With the wide adoption of CSS 2 as a standard, we can get away from that, and use cascading style sheets to create lines and backgrounds, and control the position of text columns and blocks on a page.

Ewwww. That’ll make for some boring stuff, you say. Not true.

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Here are a few pages that use at least some CSS2 – tell me if they’re boring:

These sites load fast, read well and present excellent targets for search engine optimization. And, they look good.

So, if your web consultant starts telling you to use fewer graphics, don’t fire them. Say thank you, and look forward to a better, more accessible web presence…

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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