Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /home/a26f9f83/public_html/articles/includes/config.php on line 159
Writing Effective ALT Text For Images > NetSparsh - Viral Content you Love & Share

Writing Effective ALT Text For Images

Anyone who knows anything about web accessibility knows that images need alternative, or ALT, text assigned to them. This is because screen readers can't understand images, but rather read aloud the alternative text assigned to them. In Internet Explorer we can see this ALT text, simply by mousing over the image and looking at the yellow tooltip that appears. Other browsers (correctly) don't do this. The HTML for inserting ALT text is:

img src="filename.gif" alt="Alternative description goes here"

But surely there can't be a skill to writing ALT text for images? You just pop a description in there and you're good to go, right? Well, kind of. Sure, it's not rocket science, but there are a few guidelines you need to follow...

Spacer images and missing ALT text

Spacer images should always be assigned null ALT text, or alt="" . This way most screen readers will completely ignore the image and won't even announce its presence. Spacer images are invisible images that pretty most websites use. The purpose of them is, as the name suggests, to create space on the page. Sometimes it's not possible to create the visual display you need, so you can stick an image in (specifying its height and width) and volià, you have the extra space you need.

Not everyone uses this null ALT text for spacer images. Some websites stick in alt="spacer image". Imagine how annoying this can be for a screen reader user, especially when you have ten of them in a row. A screen reader would say, "Image, spacer image" ten times in a row (screen readers usually say the word, "Image", before reading out its ALT text) - now that isn't helpful!

Other web developers simply leave out the ALT attribute for spacer images (and perhaps other images). In this case, most screen readers will read out the filename, which could be 'newsite/images/onepixelspacer.gif'. A screen reader would announce this image as "Image, newsite slash images slash one pixel spacer dot gif". Imagine what this would sound like if there were ten of these in a row!

Bullets and icons

Bullets and icons should be treated in much the same way as spacer images, so should be assigned null alternative text, or alt="". Think about a list of items with a fancy bullet proceeding each item. If the ALT text, 'Bullet' is assigned to each image then, "Image, bullet" will be read aloud by screen readers before each list item, making it take that bit longer to work through the list.

Icons, usually used to complement links, should also be assigned alt="". Many websites, which place the icon next to the link text, use the link text as the ALT text of the icon. Screen readers would first announce this ALT text, and then the link text, so would then say the link twice, which obviously isn't necessary.

(Ideally, bullets and icons should be called up as background images through the CSS document - this would remove them from the HTML document completely and therefore remove the need for any ALT description.)

Decorative images

Decorative images too should be assigned null alternative text, or alt="". If an image is pure eye candy then there's no need for a screen reader user to even know it's there and being informed of its presence simply adds to the noise pollution.

Conversely, you could argue that the images on your site create a brand identity and by hiding them from screen reader users you're denying this group of users the same experience. Accessibility experts tend to favour the former argument, but there certainly is a valid case for the latter too.

Navigation & text embedded within images

Navigation menus that require fancy text have no choice but to embed the text within an image. In this situation, the ALT text shouldn't be used to expand on the image. Under no circumstances should the ALT text say, 'Read all about our fantastic services, designed to help you in everything you do'. If the menu item says, 'Services' then the ALT text should also say 'Services'. ALT text should always describe the content of the image and should repeat the text word-for-word. If you want to expand on the navigation, such as in this example, you can use the title attribute.

The same applies for any other text embedded within an image. The ALT text should simply repeat, word-for-word, the text contained within that image.

(Unless the font being used is especially unique it's often unnecessary to embed text within images - advanced navigation and background effects can now be achieved with CSS.)

Company logo

Websites tend to vary in how they apply ALT text to logos. Some say, 'Company name', others 'Company name logo', and other describe the function of the image (usually a link back to the homepage), 'Back to home'. Remember, ALT text should always describe the content of the image so the first example, alt="Company name", is probably the best. If the logo is a link back to the homepage then this can be effectively communicated through the title tag.

Conclusion

Writing effective ALT text isn't too difficult. If it's a decorative image then null alternative text, or alt="" should usually be used - never, ever omit the ALT attribute. If the image contains text then the ALT text should simply repeat this text, word-for-word. Remember, ALT text should describe the content of the image and nothing more.

Do also be sure also to keep ALT text as short and succinct as possible. Listening to a web page with a screen reader takes a lot longer than traditional methods, so don't make the surfing experience painful for screen reader users with bloated and unnecessary ALT text.

This article was written by Trenton Moss. He's crazy about web usability and accessibility - so crazy that he went and started his own web usability and accessibility consultancy ( Webcredible - http://www.webcredible.co.uk ) to help make the Internet a better place for everyone.

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news

Customer Think

Things You Should Definitely Know About Web Development Team
Customer Think
Imagine one time you came up with a great idea to create a website for your company. The first step to take in this case is to hire a web development team of professionals that can fit the project's objectives. The selection of the project team is as ...

and more »

Lifehacker

Learn Web Development for Free With App Academy
Lifehacker
App Academy founder Kush Patel tells Lifehacker that while Codecademy is a good resource for all sorts of programming, App Academy Open is focused on “teaching folks web dev skills to get them a software engineering job.” (At the in-person school ...


MENAFN.COM

How to chose the Best Web Development Company?
MENAFN.COM
(MENAFN Editorial) Arfa Technologies is a web development company in Lahore that trusts, expert website development with optimizing and enhancing the presence of brand for your business requirements, can go far towards expanding your business reach ...

and more »

Customer Think

Know about the current trends in web development
Customer Think
In case of web development, you may have probably heard that the only constant is the change. It is an industry-defining statement as web development keeps on changing. User expectations are evolving rapidly, and it is quite essential than ever before ...


Techaeris

Web development services: What business opportunities do they provide?
Techaeris
Web development services are becoming more crucial with each passing day. Simple site builders can provide some semblance of a digital presence albeit a temporary one. A higher level of site quality is becoming a deciding factor that can make or break ...


Business 2 Community

4 Ways to Ensure Effective Web Development
Business 2 Community
When it comes to building a new website, many businesses choose to focus predominantly on the design aspect of the project when approaching agencies to carry out the work. Whilst design is a vital part to any web development project, there are a vast ...


AppleInsider

Apple partners with France's Simplon for Swift app development training
AppleInsider
Participating students will find themselves in a four-week program developed by Apple in conjunction with educational experts. It will add on to Simplon's existing Web development program, which runs for seven months. Apple will also provide teacher ...

and more »

International Association of Athletics Federations

Job vacancy: Marketing and web development project manager
International Association of Athletics Federations
The IAAF is seeking a marketing and web development project manager at its Monaco headquarters. Reporting to the chief information officer, the marketing and web development project manager will oversee several projects and ensure that information ...


McKnight's Long Term Care News

Jennifer Anthony named managing director of IT at Lorien
McKnight's Long Term Care News
Such initiatives include overseeing technical and web development projects, identifying new market opportunities and leading a team to find solutions to adequately manage daily business activities. A military veteran, Anthony began her military service ...


Esports news from Luckbox (blog)

Meet the team at Luckbox: Developer Vasil Spasov
Esports news from Luckbox (blog)
Generally speaking, what does your role involve? Everything about the development of Luckbox website. Most of the time I work on front-end issues — in a few words, I help to make the website functional and beautiful. Please tell us a bit about your ...

Google News

4 Steps to Selling More With Your Web Site

Most web sites are more like stage sets than real... Read More

7 Profit Producing Reasons Why Every Successful Service Professional Needs A Web Presence

Your business website is a critical aspect of being able... Read More

The Power Is In The Pipes: How To Get Maximum Leverage From Your Website

What is the most important part of your online business?Many... Read More

Ten Ways NOT to Set Up a Website-based Service Business

1. As the first step, "Hire a web designer."First create... Read More

Is Your Website Innovative? Increase Your Business Over Night!

While studying online for IT investment opportunities, I found that... Read More

How to Get a Better Web Site ROI

Better Web Site ROIHow to increase your business profitability by... Read More

Successful Commercial Sites

Do you make your website just to entertain yourself or... Read More

Let Marketing Manage Your Website Content

The definition of the phrase "Content Management" depends on what... Read More

How Web Templates Are Helping Online Businesses to MultiplyTheir Income

Web templates by nature are created to aid and ease... Read More

What Hosting Companies Dont Tell You, Could Hurt You?

Did you know that hosting companies overcrowd their servers despite... Read More

Search Engines and Customers Want Focused Web Site Content

How do you decide on the content, products and or... Read More

Build a Web Site that Works...Even for a Safari Hobby!

My life's greatest passion is a safari hobby. And what... Read More

Maintaining Your Business Website

QUESTION: Should I build and maintain my business Web... Read More

Marketing Your Business Online

As a business you can't afford to ignore the Internet... Read More

Why a CSS Website Layout Will Make You Money

Although CSS layouts have been around for years, they haven't... Read More

Beware the Software Siren

I've heard several prominent web marketers mention in their classes... Read More

Web Measurement: What You Don?t Know Would Make A Great Book

"What's in it for me?" you ask. "Why should I... Read More

Ten Quick Tests To Check Your Website For Accessibility

The Disability Discrimination Act says that websites must be made... Read More

Does Your Business Really Need A Website?

Website, website, website, everyone says you need one. But do... Read More

Why Your Brick-and-Mortar Biz Needs A Website

The internet has taken over our lives with a vengeance,... Read More

If You Build It, They Will Come?

Building a new website can be a lengthy task. From... Read More

Web Designer? You Dont Need No Stinkin Web Designer!

RIVERSIDE, CA August 4, 2004 ?- "Historically, small business owners... Read More

You Need To Treat Your Website Like An Employee - Heres 5 Ways To Do It

People often come to me in a state of crisis... Read More

The Dos and Donts of Launching a Small Business Website

Launching a new small business website is often a long... Read More

Bring Your Visitors Back Clamoring for More! Maintain and Improve Your Web Site Weekly - Part 1

80% of your Web site is Maintenance!Once your Web site... Read More