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Re: Alt Text


From: Jared Smith
Date: Feb 25, 2010 3:42PM

On Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 2:13 PM, John Foliot < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:

> I will concede that using the [square brackets] feels like a bit of a hack
> - perhaps it is - but consider as well that punctuation (any form of
> punctuation, including the use of my parenthesis here) serves a cognitive
> function.

Sure. But I think that user agents can and should make this visual
distinction, not authors.

> Signaling what kind of visual element you are using to non-sighted users,
> or users of text only user-agents, is also a cognitive mechanism, who's
> value (IMHO) outweighs any downside of using *that* pattern.  Consider:
>        Alt="John Foliot"
>        Alt="Photo: John Foliot"
>        Alt="Avatar: John Foliot"

I think that it absolutely makes sense in the cases you've mentioned.
But for many (probably most) images on the web, it doesn't matter to
the user at all what TYPE of image it is or that an image is even
present. They simply want the content. This is where using this
pattern universally for all images makes me squirm. If it's important
for the user to know what type of image it is or that it is an image
at all, sure, put it in alt. If not, don't.

I'm confident most screen readers and sighted users (at least the VERY
few that happen to need to see alt text anyway) would have a degraded
experience if every image that presented content suddenly were recoded
to start with "Graphic:" or similar. And has been noted, the screen
reader typically reads "graphic" before each image anyway, so this
really is redundant. If browsers don't provide a visual distinction
(nearly all of them do) between alt text and plain text when images
are disabled or unavailable, then they need to fix this issue.

Consider alt="Photo: iPhone" on an ecommerce site. I don't care that
it's a photo or a logo or an icon or even an image at all. I only care
that it's the iPhone. Or alt="Graphic: Search". I don't care that it's
graphical button or a standard button - I just want to know what the
thing does. It's in these cases where the graphic type doesn't matter
that I think the pattern you recommend becomes extraneous and
burdensome to end users. Of course the difference is minor and
certainly neither is "inaccessible".