Alt Text is “alternative text” you should be adding to every image you upload to your website or blog (and to Instagram). What is alt text? Alt text is a concise description of what is in an image.
Why Alt Text Matters
Alt text has multiple purposes. Primarily it is used by visitors utilizing screen reading software (or apps) to consume the content on a website. Screen reading software reads website text including alt text aloud to users. Typically, screen reading software is utilized by visually impaired users. Adding alt text to your images allows visually impaired users to better experience your website by hearing a clear description of the images on your site.
Alt Text Also Helps with SEO
In addition to assisting persons using screen reading software, alt text also helps search engines like Google to better understand what your images are about. This added information can make a big difference in your images being found/delivered in Google search results. Taking the time to include good descriptive alt text with your images can improve your SEO (search engine optimization).
Examples of Alt Text
When writing alt text for website images, write brief and descriptive sentences. These sentences should make sense when read aloud. Don’t write like a robot and don’t simply repeat your image filename. Write alt text like you’re describing the image aloud to a friend. This will improve the experience for website visitors having your site read to them.
For example, for this image, the alt text I wrote is: Bright blue sky with whispy and puffy white clouds above vibrant green pasture land in far Northern California.
This alt text explains what is in the image using descriptive words like “bright, whispy, puffy and vibrant.” It also tells the user where the image was taken.
If I didn’t take the time to include the alt text for the image, a screen reader would more than likely just say “image” when it moves down the web page and encounters the image.
It’s not hard to understand that just hearing “image” isn’t as good of an experience as hearing the description of “bright blue sky with whispy and puffy white clouds above vibrant green pasture land in far Northern California.”
Adding Alt Text to Your Images
While every website platform is different, you’ll find that regardless of the platform you’re using, there should be a way for you to add alt text to your website images.
You don’t need to include alt text for images that are purely decorative. For example, ornate flourishes separating sections of your website don’t require alt text. You also can skip the alt text if you’ve already described an image in the body of the copy on your site. For example, if you’ve written a descriptive caption for an image, adding alt text would be redundant – and not a good experience for your visitors.
Here’s a list of links to “Alt Text How To’s” for some of the most popular website platforms.
Is Alt Text Legally Required?
Alt text isn’t legally required, but it is both kind and smart! You want your website to be a good experience for visitors regardless of their visual ability. It also helps with search engine optimization – which is always a good thing!
Make Your Website Better By Taking This Extra Step
While it is an “extra step” you’ll need to take when adding images to your website or blog, it is something you should be doing. Once you get used to it, you’ll find that this “extra step” isn’t difficult and is worth the effort. It improves the experience for users consuming your website content and it improves your site’s SEO.