What is Alt Text and why do I want to add them to all images?

So when you insert images with WordPress there’s a box marked “alt text.”  First question would be what should you do with it?

Alt text is what you would see if

  • for some reasons the picture didn’t load at all on a browser. (This sometimes happens with news readers as well.
  • on devices for the visually impaired and/or visually distracted (screen readers for drivers, for instance.)
  • on some browsers the alt text will appear in a popup when you hover the mouse over an image for a few moments
  • you were the Google indexing tool when it scans the page. It will also use alt text to how to index the image itself. (With well-phrased alt text people can find your site through Google’s image search.)

So two tricks for alt text

  • Use a straight up description of the image (e.g. “a photo of Bob’s cluttered desk.”)
  • Use a narrative description that flows with the rest of the text on the page (e.g. “our client Bob’s desk was cluttered when we started working with him.”)

The first might be a little more useful for Google Images, the second for standard Google searches. Either one is fine.

What is the alt-text box and where did it come from.

The alt-text option has been around almost as long as there have been images on the web.  It was initially proposed for use with text-only terminals and MS-DOS computers.  Not a bad idea since at the time these were still very common.  Soon after, though, they were added to the official World Wide Web specification as an accommodation for visually impaired web users.

Even the most indifferent author still might care about Google, the biggest “visually impared” website visitor in the world.  So use it or lose it.

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David Innes, RealBasics.com

I've been building and maintaining websites since 1997 and building and supporting similar hypertext-driven software since 1987. I've done maintenance, support, and maintenance for physical and digital systems since 1981. And no, I still haven't seen it all but by now I usually know where to look. More about David Innes...