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The overlooked LONGDESC attribute
rogerd




msg:1583251
 2:48 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

The latest flap over Target getting sued [webmasterworld.com] for not making their website accessible to blind users will no doubt spark more interest in accessibility. We can expect to see plenty of ALT attributes for image tags being filled with text, but what about the LONGDESC attribute?

I'm quite consistent in adding ALT attributes to my IMG tags, but I've never found it necessary or inherently desirable to add LONGDESC content. I'd guess that many of us are in the same situation, but will be confronted with clients specifying LONGDESC attributes for at least some kinds of images.

So, here are a few questions:

- How often do you currently use the LONGDESC attribute for images on sites you design?
- Do you think you'll use it more often in the future than you have in the past?
- What are the characterstics of a good long description?
- Have you observed any SEO effects from this attribute?
- Since the content is located in a different file, have you developed a good technique for generating and organizing these files?

 

JAB Creations




msg:1583252
 7:09 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've come to the habit of using the title attribute on all my anchors and images now. I've used the longdesc attribute the past but it has not continued on in my personal learning. I've never seen it used on the web but it would be interesting to see how it effects the value of a page in regards to serps.

John

pageoneresults




msg:1583253
 7:15 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

How often do you currently use the LONGDESC attribute for images on sites you design?

Great topic rogerd! I've not had the opportunity to use the longdesc but am very familiar with it after providing examples for years on how to expand the alt attribute.

In fact, I see very little use for it on most sites. Where it will really come into play are those sites that utilize images to convey information. Items such as paintings, charts, graphs, anything that is in image format that is used to describe something would qualify for a longdesc if the 80 characters allowed in the alt attribute is not enough.

Do you think you'll use it more often in the future than you have in the past?

Again, only if required. I do believe that 98% of images out there can be described effectively using the 80 character max limit suggested by the W3C.

What are the characterstics of a good long description?

I'd write my longdesc just as if I were writing a meta description. Short, precise and keyword rich. Written naturally using a natural occurence of stop words, etc.

Have you observed any SEO effects from this attribute?

I personally haven't but I don't think this is something that the SEs would open for abuse. This is strictly an accessibility/usability feature like the title attribute.

Since the content is located in a different file, have you developed a good technique for generating and organizing these files?

I've given some thought to this as there is one site where I might be able to incorporate longdesc. If I do, it will all be database driven. We will include a field in the database for the longdesc.

If I had a static site, I might make a special /longdesc/ folder inside each /image/ folder so I know which longdesc goes with which images.

rogerd




msg:1583254
 7:38 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>I don't think this is something that the SEs would open for abuse.

Abuse is certainly a possibility when you've got semi-hidden text. On an all-image site, though, the LONGDESC could help the search engine understand what the page is about. This could be particularly important where there's a lot of text embedded in the image.

pageoneresults




msg:1583255
 8:00 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

On an all-image site, though, the LONGDESC could help the search engine understand what the page is about. This could be particularly important where there's a lot of text embedded in the image.

Yes, I would concur.

If I were a search quality engineer, there are definitely measures that could be put in place to detect the abuse.

I would assume that maybe the Image search engines use different criteria? Maybe they look at the longdesc? I do know that you can optimize images to be on pageone (pun intended) in Google Image Search, do it all the time, but have not had to use the longdesc.

Where I think you are going to find the most use of the longdesc are on sites that utilize images to convey information. This is not something the average mom and pop is going to use for their stock image that they've plopped on the page to add a little visual.

While typing this I was thinking, wow, what if I had a bar chart showing the 12 months of the year and each bar had various information associated with it. Adding the longdesc could become quite the maintenance nightmare. But, if I were targeting a Blind audience, I'd surely be motivated to use whatever options are available for me to convey information to my audience.

Let's not forget, this is not just about images either, sorry about that...

1.1 Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content). This includes: images, graphical representations of text (including symbols), image map regions, animations (e.g., animated GIFs), applets and programmatic objects, ascii art, frames, scripts, images used as list bullets, spacers, graphical buttons, sounds (played with or without user interaction), stand-alone audio files, audio tracks of video, and video. [Priority 1]
For example, in HTML:
Use "alt" for the IMG, INPUT, and APPLET elements, or provide a text equivalent in the content of the OBJECT and APPLET elements.
For complex content (e.g., a chart) where the "alt" text does not provide a complete text equivalent, provide an additional description using, for example, "longdesc" with IMG or FRAME, a link inside an OBJECT element, or a description link.
For image maps, either use the "alt" attribute with AREA, or use the MAP element with A elements (and other text) as content.

[edited by: pageoneresults at 8:18 pm (utc) on Feb. 15, 2006]

Robin_reala




msg:1583256
 8:17 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

The one occasion I've really used it was only a complicated chart product we had at my previous company. The chart was an image with an invisible div on top, and some javascript that let you click and drag to zoom in on areas of interest along with other things. Clearly the interface was completely inaccessible so we built an accessible version of the same product that used a data table and a submit form to give the user access to the same data in an accessible way. I realised that the 'accessible table' page was a description of the data in the image, so we added the URL of the data table to the @longdesc of the image.

pageoneresults




msg:1583257
 8:34 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Here are some links to help those who need it visualize this a little more, I'm included in that group. ;)

Everything you need to know about the longdesc is above. This covers all elements that the longdesc applies to.

rogerd




msg:1583258
 10:55 pm on Feb 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Nice set of links, p1r. Very useful resources!

DrDoc




msg:1583259
 3:54 am on Feb 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Has anyone noticed any clear benefits from using the longdesc attribute? Whether comments/feedback from visitors, or (although that's room for discussion in a different forum) better SE traffic?

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