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June 9, 2005 01:04 PM

Broken: Florida State Parks icons

FloridaEd Madigan points out all the tiny little un-labeled icons in the Florida Online Parks Guide.


Hihlights of this absurdity:

An icon for "Interpretive Exhibit". 3 people under a black square. Interpretive, indeed.

4 different camping icons. The tent with a "P" in it stands for "Primitive Camping," of course. I should have guessed that.

Posted by: conant at June 9, 2005 01:32 PM

The icons are not exactly "unlabeled"; if you rest the mouse on an icon for a moment, the label will appear. This has been a staple of Windows programming for a while as a space saving methodology; now the web is using it.

I have campaigned against icons for years as being non-user-friendly - the fact that icons all require labels to explain what they are is proof enough that they don't work; just put the label on the button and let that suffice.

It is unfortunate that, back in the 70's, when IBM was creating CUA (common user access, what you see today as the standard menus in all Windows based programs - File, Edit,etc and their menu items....they set the standard words to use (in 25 languages!) as well as the order in which they should appear) that they didn't also assign standard icons; that might have made a difference.

Posted by: Shalom LeVine at June 9, 2005 01:43 PM

The problem with the alternate text in the icons is that in Firefox, and any other Non-IE browser, the tooltops contain the text contained in the contents of the title argument in the img tag, not the alt tag.

Posted by: someone at June 9, 2005 02:19 PM

There is nothing broken about the icons themselves; the only thing broken is that the website doesn't say something like "Mouse over for more info." My guess is that some visitors to a Florida State Parks website will not figure it out on their own.

Posted by: Patentagent007 at June 9, 2005 02:33 PM

I'd guess this is a direct transliteration-to-web of existing Florida Parks literature, which probably uses the same icons.

Which raises a question: would this be considered broken in a print version? The "icons plus separate key" pattern is pretty common in print...

Posted by: James Kew at June 9, 2005 02:40 PM

This reminds me of something I saw on Nielson's site. He had a picture of a road sign with no letters on it. If you put your cursor accross it the words would appear. Everyone laughed at the event that oh you'd never have navigation like that people would get lost. Then he showed a website like this example where the icons are meaningless until mousing over. It took about 15 seconds, and then you heard a "ohhhhhhhhhhhhh" from the crowd.

Posted by: Joshua Wood at June 9, 2005 03:05 PM

Oh, and most of these icons are from the "webdings" font.

Posted by: Joshua Wood at June 9, 2005 03:05 PM

Patentagent007: Mousing over them does absolutely nothing in Safari, Firefox, Camino, Opera, or even IE/Mac, for that matter!

Posted by: codeman38 at June 9, 2005 04:02 PM

(And it would work in every one of the above-mentioned browsers had they used TITLE rather than ALT.)

Posted by: codeman38 at June 9, 2005 04:08 PM

So perhaps this is a situation of being broken by designing a webpage not to W3C standards?

Posted by: Andrew Bakke at June 9, 2005 04:24 PM

The only thing I see broken is that they do this during the increasing popularity of Mozilla Firefox, which disables mouseover ALT(ernate) text by default, displaying this text only when the image cannot load and the reserved space for the image is large enough to accompany the text. And the option to enable mouseover ALT text is a real pain to find sometimes. So, as much as it pains me to say this, Firefox is broken. But at least until you find the option, you can still right click the image and select properties. Still a pain though.

Posted by: Matthew at June 9, 2005 05:47 PM

Shalom, just because it's possible to get the text representing the icon doesn't mean this isn't broken. It's very broken if I have to mouse over 20 icons, waiting 2-3 seconds each, to eventually find the one I'm looking for. I'd rather see:

[icon] [Description]

[icon] [Description]

[icon] [Description]

[icon] [Description]


...all listed horizontally, as opposed to this hodgepodge of vague icons. I'm sure seasoned campers know the symbols, but if I'm not a seasoned camper and I wanted to get into it, this would be a very bad place for me to start.

How about this too: The side bar has arrows that always point down, regardless of whether you expand that section or not. After the section is expanded, they should point up to indicate that section is open. It ain't hard.

The problem also there is that the arrows are on the same level as the item below it. To expand the "Contact Us" section, click on the down arrows right across from "Links".

Posted by: Manni at June 9, 2005 05:57 PM


Firefox is not broken. Nor are Safari, Opera, Camino or any other browser that this doesn't work in. It is not the user's job to get this to work in their browser. It is the developer's job to make sure it does.

Posted by: a cheesepuff at June 9, 2005 06:30 PM

Three words: Mystery Meat Navigation.

And WTF don't those browsers show the ALT text in an IMG tag?

Posted by: Jacques Troux at June 9, 2005 06:54 PM

Jacques: Because ALT text is meant to be a textual alternative to the image, rather than additional information about it.

Posted by: codeman38 at June 9, 2005 10:21 PM

C'mon, folks. These icons are pretty self-explanatory.

Starting from the upper left, we have:

"Lay on your back as the sun turns into a black hole"

"Ride on a bicycle with a smaller rear wheel than front wheel"

"A toy dachsund on wheels can roll down a slope onto a grate"

"Two headed people can ride a pan on a grate"

"There is blood in the water around the motorboat"

"Biting palm trees can take bites out of small homes"

"Flaming tennis balls"

"Guitar playing on a grate"

"Giant soda equals..."

"High waist bands are back in fashion"

"You may be gored by a bent wire"


"Triangle with whirlwind inside"

"Person with cake pan on head has broken arm"

"Keep on truckin'"

"Our horses have no legs"

"The owl rides on a four-wheeled platform"

"The powerpoint presentation is broken"

"Ammityville house ahead"

"Spiders with four legs can ski here"

"People walking dogs should beware of flying triangles"

"Dogs on leashes may fall into quicksand"

"Chinese pavillion ahead"

I'd do the second row, but you can just mouse over them...if you have a browser that supports non-compliant mousetips.

Posted by: Michael McWatters at June 9, 2005 10:52 PM

I'm so proud to be from Florida. I'm surprised there isn't an icon for "bury missing and exploited child here" or "land Cuban MIG here" or "Unlawfully sell controlled substances here" or "Unlawfully dump cargo containing controlled substances here" or "Refugees may unlawfully enter the United States at this beach"

Posted by: I Love FLA at June 10, 2005 09:49 AM

Michael McWatters had me laughing so hard I was crying! I want more! Please finish them soon, sir.

I agree that icons are broken if they require users to mouse over them in order to figure out what the heck they mean. Manni's solution is a sound one.

I also agree that any website that requires users to be running Internet Explorer on a Windows machine is broken. There are tens of millions of people using Macintosh computers, and millions of Windows users who don't use IE. For all these users, the floridastateparks website is broken (although now side-splittingly amusing, thanks to Mr. McWatters). Anyone who builds a public website trying to reach a wide audience should construct and test it with a variety of web browsers and platforms in mind.

Posted by: Gary Karpinski at June 10, 2005 10:41 AM

yeah michael wins

Posted by: fdghxn at June 10, 2005 11:58 AM

"Learn about simple machines here"

"Associated Press has a new logo"

"UPS Trucks must open their doors"

"Warning: People in water"

"Beware of giant brooms"

"Swimming for people with long hair"

"Loch Ness Monster"

"Ride the Loch Ness Monster"

"Vision Exams"

"If you pass the eye exam, use binoculars backwards"

"Triangle with tornado inside"

Posted by: Boris Zakharin at June 10, 2005 01:22 PM

Okay, since some of you really can't see the rollovers, the last few from my list above are:

"The balance of power is shifting"

"The letter P sleeps in a teepee"

"Our UPS van is missing a door"

"Do not scuba your way into a rounded corner"

"Visit our skeletal foot exhibit"

"Do not snorkel your way into a rounded corner, either"

"Hold your opponent underwater"

"If you have a bad back, use an orthopedic raft"

"A presentation on the letter V is being shown"

"Transformer meeting place"

"Come see the world famous stained glass tent"

Posted by: Michael McWatters at June 10, 2005 02:16 PM

Next to scuba diving it says;

You can rake here.

Posted by: WEG at June 12, 2005 11:59 AM

Hilarious, Mr. McWatters.

Posted by: Bob at June 12, 2005 10:26 PM

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