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Re: latest practice on alt text


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Dec 24, 2008 5:00AM

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis wrote:

> A company logo probably isn't an example of a _purely_ decorative
> image.

At least it shouldn't, though some people decorate their pages with company
logos improperly.

> I don't think it's possible to generalize about appropriate
> alternative text for logos, because they are used for particular
> purposes in particular contexts.

However, we can generalize about appropriate alternative text for logos by
their purpose. After all, an alt text should is not really about an image;
instead, it is supposed to do the same job as the image does, as far as

Typically a logo is used on all pages of an organization as an indication of
their belonging to a particular site of a particular organization. It is
like an owner's mark. If it is not a link, then one could consider using alt
text like "ACME logo", even though this is somewhat silly in a sense: a logo
is a visual concept, and the alt text is supposed to work even for people
who were born bild. Yet, some visual concepts are so commonly known that we
might justify their use. In principle, "This is a web page by ACME." would
express the intended message explicitly and with no implication of visual
concepts, but I admit it might be a bit too puristic to require such usage.

If a logo, used as "owner's mark", as it often is and often should, then the
word "logo" becomes strange and even misleading. Using just the
organization's name or abbreviation, like "ACME", is preferable. After all,
the alt text acts as link text here, and it should thus reflect the content
of the

> (A) <h1><img src="shell.jpg" alt="{ALTERNATIVE}">Shell Oil</h1>

In this scenario, the image is presumably not a logo in the strict sense of
the word, i.e. a name or abbreviation in a particular established style, but
an image that otherwise symbolizes something, either as such or when used in
conjunction with a text or a logo. It is not purely decorative then, but
then it is adequate to use alt="" when it as accompanied with a name or
abbrevation; otherwise, when it is used alone and it is assumed to act as a
visual symbol referring to an organization, it should be be similarly to a
logo (in the case of Shell, I would probably use "Shell company", since
"Shell" alone is not clear enough in meaning).

> - and perhaps putting a description of the logo itself somewhere in an
> About section.

That's highly questionable. Organizations may think that their logos are
interesting as such (after all, their design may have been very expensive
and they may have considerable commercial value), but to a visitor who does
not see a logo, could it really matter what it looks like, as apart from
what it symbolizes? It might be of some interest to people who do see it,
but then this has nothing to do with alt attributes.

Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/