Don't Overlook Alt TagsWhat are ALT tags?
ALT tags are the little rectangular boxes of text that appear when you place your cursor over an image. The text will be shown in browsers which cannot display images, or if the user has chosen not to view images. Some search engines use this text to capture keywords for the web-page.
Audiences for ALT tags:
* Sighted readers who choose to browse the web without graphics being displayed
* Blind and sighted readers who access a page using audio-based browser technologies
* Automated indexing programs utilize ALT text as part of the page''s contents
Some of the biggest website promotion casualties on the World Wide Web are documents whose authors didn''t take the indexing robots seriously. T he indexing robot is one of the most important readers of your website. Since graphics cannot be interpreted by web crawlers ALT tags improve Search Engine Optimization of your website because they associate a keyword with a graphic.
Unlike ALT tags, META tags do not produce any visible spin off for your text-mode human readers. Effort spent on your ALT texts produces benefits for both kinds of "reader". There has been so much abuse of the META tags that certain indexers now ignore the META entirely, or apply strict disqualification rules to avoid getting fooled by that kind of trickery.
Tips for creating ALT Tags:
* Keep Text Short
Extremely long ALT text can ruin page-formatting for sighted readers browsing non-graphically. This is especially true in tables, where overly long ALT text can quickly render a page un-navigable for non-graphical readers.
* Keep Text Meaningful
Meaningless ALT text is probably worse than no ALT text. It''s important that ALT text be meaningful in and of itself. ALT text that is meaningful in itself helps guide readers to your page by way of automated indexers that read and understand ALT text.
* Discard Decorations
In this context, "decoration" really refers to two things:
* Truly decorative images (which convey no content)
* Buttons, bullets, dividers, etc. (which don''t convey content, but do help to organize existing contents).
For images that convey no content, an empty ALT tag (that is, ALT="") will effectively discard these decorations.
For buttons and bullets, a simple ALT="*" does the trick nicely. Similarly, ALT="-------------" works well for separator bar graphics (though a simple tag transmits much quicker and doesn''t require ALT text).
* Test ALT Tags
It is easy to test ALT tags. To test your ALT tags, simply disable image-loading in your browser, and tour your site. To hear how your pages sound to audio-based browser technologies, simply read your page aloud, left-to-right, top-to-bottom. If you encounter an image without an ALT tag, say the word "image."
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