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@MikeWS: I wanted to respond to a couple of the points you made as well…
“If you turn images off, in Firefox at least, the alt text bleeds over the message. Very visually exciting.”
If someone turns images off, are they overly concerned with visual excitement? Do they expect everything to be in pixel perfect place? Or are you saying that the message isn’t getting across because there is an overlap or something?
“to make it stand out more … put â€œError :â€ or â€œTransaction Error :â€ in the text, use a different, but related, font in a larger size possibly styled in a Strong or Em element to add semantic weight.”
I have no problems with adding semantic weight to it, and encourage it – I might actually revise this example by putting [em] ... [/em] around the image. ;)
“If the icon is there for people who cannot read they will not be able to understand the message anyway…”
Who said anything about being there for people that cannot read? You’re jumping to conclusions.
“The web needs information technologists/architects, not graphic artists.”
I’ll have to disagree there – the web needs people that communicate a message. That message should always have good design in terms of both the information that is presented and the visual way in which it is communicated.
“In summary. Icons = eye candy, period.”
What about the background colour, text colour, and the borders? are they eye candy too? Do they not communicate? Why pick on the icons only? What I’m saying is that it is entirely appropriate to display the image along side whatever message you choose for your text, and depending on the text you choose you may have to consider different strategies rather than always putting images in the background via CSS.
I’m very serious when I ask these questions and not at all rhetorical. I’m genuinely interested in understanding where you’re coming from on this…