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Use Of "ALT" Tags

 9:47 pm on Dec 19, 2000 (gmt 0)

I've just run my site through an HTML validator - and got the response "required attribute "ALT" not specified" for every one of my images (example: <a href="/lfhome6.htm"><img border="0" src="/images/lflogo330.jpg"></a>

As I (barely) understand it - ATL tags are used to supply info on browsers that don't support images... is that correct? How important are ALT tags? I created my site in FrontPage (sorry!) and I guess they don't use the ALT tag.... My site is an e-commerce retail site that relies heavily on images. Any suggestions?



 10:19 pm on Dec 19, 2000 (gmt 0)

For SEO, I believe ALTs have been declared dead or nearly so. But, when properly used, they are not spam and you may be looking for every scrap of help you can get in acheiving rankings -so what can they hurt?

However, I believe the ALT tag is all that is visible if a user is surfing with graphics off -and I'm told a fair number do.

All in all, though not mission-critical, I'd say ALTs should be used.


 10:43 pm on Dec 19, 2000 (gmt 0)

I think starting with HTML 4.01 (transitional) ALT is compulosry.

the html 4.01 std. can be found at w3.org



 3:03 am on Dec 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

Also, the alt tag can be turned into synthesized voice for visually impaired surfers -- I believe that's why it's now required by validators.


 3:30 am on Dec 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

Here's Bobby, which tests sites for usability by people with disabilities:



 7:42 am on Dec 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

Nice link. The web may some day be the preferred media for the visually impaired.


 1:04 pm on Dec 20, 2000 (gmt 0)

In the back of my mind, I knew there was another place alt tags come into play. They can end up, keywords in bold, in the Google decriptions.

Since I doubt that many people really read those things, this has more of a subliminal influence on the searcher. But they show up, so I'd say Google must be giving them some weight in the algo.


 12:28 pm on Dec 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

ALT attributes (they're not actually tags) are mandatory starting in HTML 4.0. alt="" is fine, though, if that's appropriate.

ALT attributes are displayed when using browsers that don't support graphics (lynx, w3m, etc), when the user has graphics turned off or clicks stop before the image finishes loading, and I believe older Netscape versions displayed them while the image was loading.

On a related note, there was a lawsuit filed over the Olympic web site's reliance on graphics and failure to use alt attributes where appropriate. I believe it's still pending.


 1:15 pm on Dec 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

>lawsuit filed over the Olympic web site's reliance on graphics and failure to use alt attributes where appropriate

gmiller, was that suit filed on behalf of disabled users?


 1:17 pm on Dec 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

Doesn't Altavista read the image Alt tags to build it's image search database?


 2:41 pm on Dec 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

>Doesn't Altavista read the image Alt tags to build it's image search database?

[bang head on desk] Of course, image searches! Nice one, msgraph. I have a 'download free travel photos' section, it's a traffic magnet.


 2:52 pm on Dec 21, 2000 (gmt 0)

No prob. Actually I need to take more advantage of it than I actually am.

I'll reveal a little secret here but it can be figured out by a few searches.

Their image, audio/video search database is very sparsely populated under many search terms. Some very popular too.

Let me add that I am not sure if ALT tags are a sure way of getting your images listed. I think they use the file name, human-review, and a few other methods.

I guess this question should be posted in another topic but, does anyone know ALL the methods they use to populate their image database?


 1:28 pm on Dec 22, 2000 (gmt 0)

I don't kow nearly all the tricks I sort of stumble on them. I have been using ALT tags on every image in my site since day one. I also name the images after keywords. I just did it for the people who surf without graphics. Guess I got lucky also from what I have read here also :).



 1:48 pm on Dec 22, 2000 (gmt 0)

>and I'm told a fair number do.

I'm told that in parts of the world where the surfer is paying by the minute this becomes a big factor.

We are working with a software firm who is building a NEW SITE just for parts of Europe where they have been getting complaints about slow loading graphics.


 3:23 pm on Dec 22, 2000 (gmt 0)

>pay by the minute

Another eye-opener. This is a good thread, making me revisit stuff I thought I knew.


 10:44 am on Jan 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

>> ALT attributes (they're not actually tags) are mandatory starting in HTML 4.0. alt="" is fine, though, if that's appropriate.

What does this mean in practical terms? Does it mean a browser that is "strict" HTML 4.0 won't display a graphic without the alt attribute? It's hard to believe MSIE, Netscape or Opera would ever code their browsers that way.


 11:45 pm on Jan 9, 2001 (gmt 0)

I recall reading about ALT being for impaired users and for the benefit of users with graphics turned off.

Over a period of time it became bastardised into a means of keyword stuffing and when that had reached its inevitable end, it has become common-place to not use them at all.

I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons people have trouble getting into Yahoo is that they may have overlooked the original purpose of ALT.... and that their site is seen as deficient for some sectors of the web community.

Just idle thoughts.. not based on any actual knowledge or first-hand experiences.


 9:44 am on Jan 10, 2001 (gmt 0)


Well, the plan is for browsers to eventually stop accepting SGML-based HTML and move entirely to XML-based HTML. XML requires that your document be 100% correct or you get an error message. That nearly eliminates the need to test on various browsers, since nearly all serious browser differences occur on invalid code. It'll be a long time before the major browsers dump legacy support, but you'll need to make the switch before that in order to use the new features and specs. For example, you can't mix SVG graphics into old HTML.

In the mean time, browsers are gradually getting more demanding about what they'll parse. Gecko and Tasman won't let as much slide as previous NS/MS browsers.


 1:07 pm on Jan 10, 2001 (gmt 0)

I can't see why a browser would not accept (basic)HTML in the future. Where did you find this info? If they did this then you are looking at cutting off access to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of sites that are created by amateur internet users around the world. MSIE and NS are always going to accept sites with (basic) HTML, if not then they would be killing themselves. That's my opinion.


 11:25 am on Jan 11, 2001 (gmt 0)

The idea is to gradually move users over to the newer specs. Nobody's planning to dump support for legacy pages tomorrow. :)

Leniency created the browser incompatibility mess, and strictness will fix it. It'll take time, but hopefully it'll happen someday.

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