Writing Effective ALT Text For Images

Merely inserting ALT textual content is not essentially sufficient to make sure accessible pictures – the textual content should even be successfully written. Learn the way to realize this…

Anybody aware of something about internet accessibility is aware that pictures want different, or ALT, textual content assigned to them. It’s because display screen readers cannot perceive pictures, however reasonably learn aloud the choice textual content assigned to them. In Web Explorer, we will see this ALT textual content, just by mousing over the picture and looking out on the yellow tooltip that seems. Different browsers (appropriately) do not do that. The HTML for inserting ALT textual content is:

Spacer pictures and lacking ALT textual content

Spacer pictures ought to at all times be assigned null ALT textual content or alt=”. In this manner, most display screen readers willfully ignore the picture and will not even announce its presence. Spacer pictures are invisible pictures that fairly most websites use. The aim of them is because the identity suggests, to create a house on the web page. Typically it is not attainable to create the visible show you want, so you may stick a picture in (specifying its peak and width) and voli? you have got the additional house you want.

Not everybody makes use of this null ALT textual content for spacer pictures. Some websites stick in alt=”spacer picture”. Think about how annoying this may be for a display screen reader person, particularly when you have got ten of them in a row. A display screen reader would say, “Picture, spacer picture” ten instances in a row (display screen readers normally say the phrase, “Picture”, earlier than studying out its ALT textual content) – now that is not useful!

Different internet builders merely pass over the ALT attribute for spacer pictures (and maybe different pictures). In this case, most display screen readers will learn out the filename, which could be ?newsite/pictures/onepixelspacer.gif’. A display screen reader would announce this picture as “Picture, new site slash pictures slash one-pixel spacer dot gif”. Think about what this can sound like if there have been ten of those in a row!

Bullets and icons

Bullets and icons ought to be handled in a lot the identical method as spacer pictures, so ought to be assigned null different textual content, or alt=”. Take into consideration an inventory of things with a flowery bullet continuing every merchandise. If the ALT textual content,?Bullet’ is assigned to every picture then, “Picture, bullet” might learn aloud by display screen readers earlier than every listing merchandise, making it take that bit longer to work via the listing.

Icons, normally used to enrich hyperlinks, also needs to be assigned alt=”. Many websites, which place the icon after the hyperlink textual content, use the hyperlink textual content because of the ALT textual content of the icon. Display screen readers would first announce this ALT textual content, after which the hyperlink textual content, so would then say the hyperlink twice, which clearly is not essential.

(Ideally, bullets and icons ought to be known as up as background pictures via the CSS doc – this can take away them from the HTML doc fully and due to this fact take away the necessity for any ALT description.)

Ornamental pictures

Ornamental pictures too ought to be assigned null different textual content, or alt=”. If a picture is a pure eye sweet then there is not any want for a display screen reader person to even know it is there and being knowledgeable of its presence merely provides to the noise air pollution.

Conversely, you would argue that the photographs in your website create a model id and by hiding them from display screen reader customers you are denying this group of customers the identical expertise. Accessibility specialists are inclined to favour the previous argument, however, there definitely is a legitimate cause for the latter too.

Navigation & textual content embedded inside pictures

Navigation menus that require fancy textual content don’t have any selection however to embed the textual content inside a picture. In this state of affairs, the ALT textual content should not be used to increase the picture. By no means ought the ALT textual content say,?Learn all about our unbelievable companies, designed that will help you in everything you do’. If the menu merchandise says,?Companies’ then the ALT textual content also needs to say? Companies’. ALT textual content ought to at all times describe the content material of the picture and may repeat the textual content word-for-word. If you wish to increase the navigation, corresponding to this instance, you should use the title attribute.

The identical applies to some other textual content embedded inside a picture. The ALT textual content ought to merely repeat, word-for-word, the textual content contained inside that picture.

(Except the font getting used is very distinctive it is typically pointless to embed textual content inside pictures – superior navigation and background results can now be achieved with CSS.)

Firm emblem

Web sites are inclined to fluctuate in how they apply ALT textual content to logos. Do some say. Firm identify’, others. Firm identify emblem’, and different describe the performance of the picture (normally a hyperlink again to the homepage),?Again to house’. Keep in mind, ALT textual content ought to at all times describe the content material of the picture so the primary instance, alt=”Firm identify”, might be the very best. If the emblem is a hyperlink again to the homepage then this may be successfully communicated via the title tag.


Writing efficient ALT textual content is not too troublesome. If it is an ornamental picture then null different textual content, or alt=” ought to normally be used – by no means, ever omit the ALT attribute. If the picture accommodates textual content then the ALT textual content ought to merely repeat this textual content, word-for-word. Keep in mind, ALT textual content ought to describe the content material of the picture and nothing extra.

Do additionally ensure to maintain ALT textual content as brief and succinct as attainable. Listening to an internet web page with a display screen reader takes rather a lot longer than conventional strategies, so do not make the browsing expertise painful for display screen reader customers with bloated and pointless ALT textual content.

Key phrases:
usability, accessibility, internet usability, internet credibility, internet accessibility, CSS, web site, accessible internet design

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