We’ve revisited these results in a newer blog post on image maps in email clients.
Given current conditions in which images are very often blocked in email messages, image maps seem to be an odd technique to pursue. Because when your source image is blocked, your links are no longer functional. That’s a fundamental accessibility issue. However, the Campaign Monitor team receives frequent inquires about image maps so we decided to test them out for people who are curious. Then you, the web designer, can decide how brave you are when you unleash them into the wild.
Remarkably, email clients offered good support for image maps. And most surprising is that many clients retain functionality of the links even with images off. Following is a table which exhibits how popular email clients handled the image maps.
|Client||Functions With Images On||Functions With Images Off|
|Yahoo! Mail Classic||Yes||No|
|Windows Live Hotmail||Yes||No|
|Penelope (Eudora 8)||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Live Mail||Yes||Yes|
|Lotus Notes 8||Yes||Yes|
The results indicate that it’s not a good idea to use image maps. Specifically because of the following issues:
- The frequency in which images are disabled
- image maps and their respective images don’t marry well and therefore pose accessibility issues for those visually impaired
- Gmail—a very popular email client—doesn’t support them consistently (they do not work when using Safari)
And with that you have the knowledge you need to discourage use of image maps.