Why I hate sIFR

(And why I think it should lay down and die, just as much as I think IE6 should).

Scalable Inman Flash Replacement (or sIFR), for those wondering, is a popular method for replacing plain text in a website, with custom fonts that a user may not have installed. It is typically employed in headings, or on buttons, where a custom font can add interest or “pizazz” to an otherwise mundane page.

It works by employing some complicated JavaScript (roughly 10kB of it, when compressed) to dynamically replace text at load time, with a custom Flash movie that contains the desired text, rendered in the custom font. This is ideal for pages where heading text might be regularly changing (such as on a blog), as it does not require the blogger to generate a new heading image for every new post. Indeed, the general concept behind sIFR is a good and useful one.

The problem I have with it lies in its execution. Here’s why I think it is a scourge on the earth, and should be cleansed at first opportunity:

There are two good alternatives I’ve found, which both have their merits, and which both don’t go near Flash with a ten-foot pole! Yay! Note that both of these use the same concept of JavaScript replacement at load time, so that the page is still accessible to screen readers, and people that don’t use a graphical browser.

If you have the ability to run a PHP backend, I’d suggest using Facelift (I’m a fan of the elegance of using images, which is essentially what would be used if you were to manually craft the headings yourself), otherwise Cufón is pretty great too. Whatever you do, don’t touch sIFR or Flash with a ten-foot pole!

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