sIFR and What it IsPosted on
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 17 seconds
Update: sIFR is a thing of the past, see @sifr for more info.
As broadband continues to improve, the internet is becoming ever more a multimedia platform. However, most commercial sites rely primarily on pure text in order to get the message across to users and search engines alike. Such text-based communication has its limitations, not least of which is the range of available fonts. Although HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allow for just about any font to be selected by the site designer, significant problems arise at the other end of the line as HTML text can only be displayed in a font that any given user has installed on their PC. In the absence of the requested font, a default font will be selected which may significantly compromise the intended page design and layout. In some cases, the page may end up so badly rendered as to be unreadable, losing the attention of the visitor before the sale has even begun. Some designers have attempted to use images in lieu of text at certain vital points but this approach has some severe constraints in accessibility and in search engine readability.
How sIFR Works
Unlike pure image-based text, sIFR will also allow for text copy and will zoom gracefully, further supporting accessibility.
There are a couple of limitations inherent in the sIFR process. Firstly, its main application is for high visibility elements such as page headlines and titles rather than longer sections of text. This is because the Flash-based system requires considerable processor resource and any attempt to render lengthy text using sIFR will result in overly long page load times. Secondly, particularly large headlines created using this technique may appear pixelated, principally due to the fact that sIFR draws the text in 6 point size and then scales it to fit the Flash area. The larger the element, the more obvious the pixelation.
That said, sIFR is still evolving, with the 3rd version currently in testing. If a particular site design mandates an “unsafe” or exotic font, sIFR may well be the most elegant solution at the present time. If your site is hosted on a web server that supports PHP scripting, alternatives include Facelift Image Replacement (FLIR) which replaces the sIFR Flash component with dynamically generated standard images.