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Are "alt" tags on the way out
I hope not
coosblues




msg:598376
 1:27 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

I read that perhaps google is either doing away with the alt tag text or giving it less importance. Has anyone heard anything definite? I've also heard that perhaps google is looking favorably on the <a title=> tag - again anyone with ideas about this I'd be very interested.

 

Chris_R




msg:598377
 1:31 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

The prevailing theory is googles doesn't count alt tags - unless they are on the link.

So a button that says "go to model rocketry home" would still count for moedl rocketry, but a gif of a model rocket with "model rocketry" in the alt tag would not count.

Even if this is true - you should still use alt tags -- they are useful for people with visual problems and other search engines - including google might use them in the future. Google might also use them in their image search.

As far as the other tag goes - I don't know - but I doubt they'd give much weight to it,

tedster




msg:598378
 4:35 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

I can tell you that over the last 12 months I've placed unique text in the title attribute of an anchor tag on several pages. Both the page and the target page were in the Google index before I did this, and both pages were spidered after the change.

A search on that unique text never returned either the page itself or the target page.

But the title attribute is getting good and standard browser support in recent versions. I continue to use it to help my visitors.

pageoneresults




msg:598379
 5:29 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'll support tedster's and Chris_R's comments above and provide this example of using the alt tag properly.

<a href="http://www.example.com/widgets.asp"><img title="SWD - Society of Widget Developers" src="/images/logo-swd.gif" width="72" height="72" alt="SWD Logo"></a>

Browsers will display the title attribute when used in place of the alt tag. I've seen some major SEs give higher relevance to the alt tag when combined with a link and title attribute.

Don't think of the alt tag as an area to stuff keywords. That is not its purpose. It is there to describe the image. Short brief descriptions are suggested. For example, a picture of a platinum widget...

<a><img title="Platinum Widets Information" width="72" height="72" alt="Picture of Platinum Widget."></a>

If the image does not need a description, then an empty alt tag is in order...

<img width="72" height="72" alt=" ">

That's two quote marks with a space inbetween.

<edit>Per Marcia's reply below.</edit>
Checkpoint 1.1 - Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element [w3.org]

P.S. Image searches seem to be way up over the past year. ;)

From the W3C... How to specify alternate text [w3.org] and Guideline 1. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content [w3.org].

[edited by: pageoneresults at 6:21 am (utc) on June 8, 2003]

Marcia




msg:598380
 6:00 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Until a couple of months ago one of the sites I work with was coming up for an exact obscure phrase (and got some traffic for it) that appeared nowhere else on the homepage except in the alt attribute of an image that was linked to a "featured item page" that had the product on it.

Don't know whether it's contributing to ranking, but text that's in the alt attribute of a linked image is showing in the snippet description right now.

Regardless, it's still good to use alt, even for spacer gifs. I was just reading today that missing alt attributes can affect page download time. And just this week I read that if the spacer uses just alt="" then the visually impaired will have the name of the image read (picture that with 45 spacers on a page) but won't if alt=" " is used.

pageoneresults




msg:598381
 6:25 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

And just this week I read that if the spacer uses just alt="" then the visually impaired will have the name of the image read (picture that with 45 spacers on a page) but won't if alt=" " is used.

Marcia, you are a savior. Actually, the WCAG is still awaiting a conclusion to this so called debate...

Proposed conclusion of null alt text debate [lists.w3.org].

Valid "alt" attribute:
"alt" attribute must exist
Not allowed - NULL "alt" value (alt="")
Allowed - "alt" value of 1 or more spaces ("alt=" "") but only if image is not within an "A element"

Based on your response above and some further reading since you posted, I'm changing my ways! ;)

P.S. I've just hated to see that little blank alt appear when using <alt=" ">.

typhoon




msg:598382
 8:22 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Don't think of the alt tag as an area to stuff keywords. That is not its purpose. It is there to describe the image. Short brief descriptions are suggested. For example, a picture of a platinum widget...

<a><img title="Platinum Widets Information" width="72" height="72" alt="Picture of Platinum Widget."></a>


It's worth mentioning that you should wrap your ALT text in square brackets to set it off from the rest of the body text in text-only browsers like Lynx (or even in Mozilla with the images off).

But yeah, there's definitely room for both ALT and TITLE since they serve fundamentally different purposes.

g1smd




msg:598383
 10:19 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

The alt attribute is a required element in HTML and in XHTML, so you'll always needa minimum of alt="" or the proposed alt=" " in the code.

waldemar




msg:598384
 10:29 am on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

typhoon:

You are using square brackets to emphasize alt text? I was wondering what "recommendations" are there... Was also thinking about prefixing with "Image:" or "Fig.:".
However, I ended up not using it - after all it *must* be the browsers task to set off special page elements. (I assume a page reading browser for blind people will precede the alt-text with something like "Eemage Deescreeption"...)

pageone:

Hmmm... about that title attribute. Where's the difference to:

<a href="http://www.example.com/widgets.asp" title="SWD - Society of Widget Developers"><img src="/images/logo-swd.gif" width="72" height="72" alt="SWD Logo"></a>

grahamstewart




msg:598385
 9:48 pm on Jun 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

if the spacer uses just alt="" then the visually impaired will have the name of the image read (picture that with 45 spacers on a page) but won't if alt=" " is used.

W3C recommend using an empty/null alt tag where no description would be appropriate so thats what I do. If this causes the screen reader reads out the full image filename, then frankly its a rubbish screen reader.

A small point tho...

Spacers are very old school. I never use them these days. Whats the point?

If you have 'got with the program' and you handle your layout in CSS, then you can do all the neccessary spacing using the x,y,margin,padding,width and height properites.

And if you've yet to see the light and switch to CSS then you could still handle spacing by using divs or spans of the required size, theres no need for an image.

pageoneresults




msg:598386
 1:55 am on Jun 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Waldemar, try testing the code that you have a question on. You'll notice that the title attribute must be on the img element to function correctly (tool tip).

I've read this piece on using the title attribute on images [lists.w3.org] and may have a change of heart here shortly. As I dabble more into the WAI I'm finding that I may not be doing some things correctly (eek, can't stand to admit that to myself!).

If there is no title attribute on the image, the alt text will be displayed in some browsers on hover. Opera 6.0+ does not display alt text on hover but, will display the title attribute. That piece above from the from W3 Lists states this...

For images that are not used as link element content:
1. Use alt to describe the image.
2. Use longdesc with a "d" link to provide a longer description if required.
3. Generally do not use the title attribute for images.

The author then goes on to say this...

For images that are used as the sole content for link elements:
1. Generally use the alt attribute of the image to describe the function of
the link.
2. Generally do not use the title attribute for the image.
3. May use the title attribute for the link, but generally would use the same text as that used as the alt text for the image.

There may be a few people out there with screen readers who hate me right now. ;)

Funny, IE displays the alt text when you use the title attribute on the link. If you use the title attribute on the image, then it displays the title attribute. Opera 7.11 does not display alt text but will display the title attribute on both the image and the link.

Since these are all supposed to be for non-visual cues, I'm going to admit that I may need to change my ways. I've been looking at this from a visual standpoint and based my methodology on what displays when you pass your cursor over an image that is linked. I've been using that title attribute to assist visual users in determining the content of a links destination. I can't do that in IE using the title attribute on image links, but I can when using it on the images. I wonder if this is another IE flaw or I'm misinterpreting the standards.

This piece here from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines mirrors the above comments from the Lists and also confirms Marcia's use of the alt=" " scenario.

6 Links 6.1 Link text [w3.org]

waldemar




msg:598387
 2:13 am on Jun 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think it was Bobby or WCAG verifiers that brought me to that "a title for each link"-thingy. And it does make some logical sense... You want to describe the *link* (where am I going) and not the *image* (what do i see).

I can't do that in IE using the title attribute on links, but I can when using it on images.

I think I'm missing something here... why can't you? I implemented the title attribute in every link on my sites - no matter if they are pure text or images...

As for this thread's topic, I truly believe that Google will incorporate more and more elements of "good style" html (including accessibility guidelines); also, tooltips on every link look cool :-)

pageoneresults




msg:598388
 2:27 am on Jun 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ah, I was editing my message and you caught that before I edited it. Here is what I meant to say...

I can't do that in IE using the title attribute on image links, but I can when using it on the images.

Go ahead, give it a try. IE displays the alt text of the image when it is linked. It will not show the title attribute of the <a href> when used in conjunction with an image. It will show if you use the img title attribute.

I've got a test page open now and I've been jumping back and forth between Opera and IE checking to see who is doing what.

waldemar




msg:598389
 10:50 am on Jun 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ah ok, I see what you mean now... here (IE6, Moz1.2, O7.03) browsers are all behaving like you describe - skipping the link-title and going for (1) if available the img-title, then (2) the img-alt. One would need two or three levels of tooltips to display to the user.

But then again, this sounds to me like a browser-software-"problem"/issue. Providing additional information on title/alt/longdesc-attributes, on the (ex-) meta-tags, etc. doesn't neccessarily mean everbody with a standard-browser can see everything. But considering the mass of html-reading software out there (document spider? speech synthesizer,...) each of them compiles an own selection of information that the html-page offers... kind of like WYSIWYGBTALMTI - what you se is what you get but there's a lot more to it :-)

[Added:] Take for instance the example from your link...

<BODY>
<MAP title="Navigation Bar">
<P>
[<A href="#how">Bypass navigation bar</A>]
[<A href="home.html">Home</A>]
[...]
As soon as you start adding titles for each link, you will never get to see the map-title anymore...

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