The Best Way to Write Descriptive Image Descriptions
In the world of web accessibility, providing alternative text (alt text) for images is crucial; that is why it is included in our SEO packages. Alt text serves as a textual description of images, enabling visually impaired users to understand and engage with visual content. However, writing effective alt text goes beyond mere description—it involves conveying meaning, context, and relevance. In this article, we will explore the best practices for crafting alt text (guide) that ensures a rich and inclusive user experience.
Be Descriptive and Concise:
- Alt text should concisely describe the image while providing relevant details. Focus on conveying the essential information, such as the subject matter, action, or purpose of the image. Keep the description concise, typically within 125 characters or less, to ensure it can be easily read by screen reader users.
Provide Context and Functionality:
- Consider the context in which the image appears and its purpose within the content. Describe not only what the image depicts but also its role in conveying information or enhancing the overall message. For example, if the image is a chart or graph, mention the data it represents or the insights it conveys.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing and Spamming:
- While it’s important to incorporate relevant keywords into alt text for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, avoid excessive keyword stuffing. Alt text should primarily serve the needs of visually impaired users rather than search engines. Focus on providing accurate and meaningful descriptions rather than attempting to manipulate search rankings.
Be Sensitive to Decorative Images:
- Decorative images, such as background patterns or design elements, don’t add significant information to the content. In such cases, it’s appropriate to provide empty alt text by leaving the alt attribute empty (alt=””) or using alternative text like alt=”Decorative image” or alt=”Image for visual appeal.” This ensures that screen readers skip over these images, reducing unnecessary auditory clutter.
Include Important Details:
- When describing images with textual content, ensure that the alt text includes all pertinent details. For example, if the image contains a quote or important text that conveys the main idea, reproduce it accurately in the alt text. This ensures that users relying on screen readers receive all the necessary information.
- If an image’s caption or nearby text already provides an adequate description, you can use alt text to provide supplementary information or skip repeating the same content. However, ensure that the alt text adds value and doesn’t leave out critical details not covered elsewhere.
Use Proper Punctuation and Formatting:
- Alt text should be written using proper punctuation and sentence structure. This enhances readability and comprehension for screen reader users. Use periods, commas, and capitalization appropriately, and consider using sentence or phrase formatting to provide a clear and structured description.
Test and Verify; Alt text guide:
- After writing alt text, it’s crucial to test its effectiveness. Use screen reader software or browser plugins to review how the alt text is presented and whether it accurately conveys the intended information. Additionally, seek feedback from visually impaired individuals to ensure the alt text meets their needs. Below are several ways you can achieve this. Choose the one that makes the most sense for you and your website.
- Screen Reader Testing: Use screen reader software such as NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) or VoiceOver (for Mac) to review how the alt text is presented. Navigate through your website or content using the screen reader and pay attention to how the alt text is read aloud. Ensure that the description makes sense, provides relevant information, and conveys the purpose of the image.
- Browser Plugin Testing: Install browser plugins or extensions that simulate screen reader functionality, such as ChromeVox (for Google Chrome) or Fangs Screen Reader Emulator (for Firefox). These tools allow you to view your web pages as a screen reader user would and help identify any issues with the alt text.
- Visual Inspection: Temporarily disable images in your web browser or use a tool like Web Developer Extension to turn off images. This visual inspection allows you to see if the alt text appears correctly in place of the images. Check if the alt text adequately describes the content and provides a meaningful alternative for visually impaired users.
- User Feedback: Seek feedback from visually impaired individuals or accessibility experts. They can provide valuable insights and perspectives on the effectiveness of your alt text. Consider conducting user testing sessions or reaching out to accessibility communities to gather feedback on the accuracy, clarity, and relevance of your alt text.
- Continuous Evaluation: Alt text should be an ongoing consideration as you update and add new images to your website. Regularly evaluate and update alt text as needed, ensuring it remains accurate and relevant. Stay up to date with evolving accessibility guidelines and user feedback to improve the quality of your alt text over time.
Crafting descriptive and meaningful alt text is a vital aspect of web accessibility and inclusivity. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your alt text provides visually impaired users with an equivalent experience, conveying the essence and significance of images. Remember, alt text plays a pivotal role in creating an inclusive web environment where everyone can fully engage with your content. We hope this alt text guide was helpful!