[whatwg] ALT and equivalent representation
shannon at arc.net.au
Fri Apr 18 21:19:46 PDT 2008
RE: Comments by Phillip Taylor and Bill Mason regarding alt=""
You both raise some excellent points. Logically alt should be optional
since as you clearly demonstrate some things have no alternate textual
meaning (at least not one of any value to the user). The trouble with
alt="" (or no alt) is the unfortunate but extremely common tendency for
designers to simply ignore the small percentage of people that need alt
tags to access the internet. Clients will generally shop around for a
web company that offers the lowest prices to provide the flashiest
designs. There's a tendency for the lowest bidder to take shortcuts that
the client will never "see", alt tags being one of these. To make
matters worse some browsers display the alt tag while waiting for images
to come from the server and this creates visual artifacts that designers
and clients generally consider undesirable.
The end result of this is that alt tags tend to be seen as a burden by
the majority of web designers I've met. The ONLY reason they get used at
all is because validators complain about them not being included and
because SEO companies are trying to stuff more keywords into the page. I
often spend a considerable amount of time inserting alt tags that other
designers consider optional. It is a debatable point whether these tags
are a personal whim or an essential part of the contract. Essentially
without some guidance from the specification it is my client who pays
for my "charity" to disadvantaged users. I know that in most cases blind
users do not form a significant enough percentage of their clientele to
affect profits (it may be a art gallery for example). Also these are not
government sites or contractors with mandated accessibility, and as far
as I know there is no law requiring corporate sites to provide
alternative text for blind users.
The ONLY "business" justification I have for using alt tags is that a
w3c valid site REQUIRES them and this may increase the sites Google rank
(which is just speculation really). If you take the requirement out to
use them on every image in a valid site then you take away much of my
argument for using them at all.
I think this is a case where logic must give way to corporate
consideration, as public and charitable sites would probably use alt
tags without being told, but 95% of the mainstream internet will not -
given half a chance.
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