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Providing meaningful alternate descriptions for non text elements

The ALT tags are used while designing a website to provide alternative text to any form of non text element used in it such as images, audio, video, etc. The basic aim of providing an alt tag is to make the same information available to a user who is unable to view the non text element due to disability, non-compatible web browser or slow speed of the internet connectivity.

Benefits of using alt tags

Few important benefits of using alt tags are given below:

  • People who are disabled and are using assistive technology devices will benefit with Alt tags as it will help them to better understand your web page.
  • Your website and its information will be available to a wider set of users. As even if your image is not displayed, the alternate text will help by providing the users the text equivalent of the same.
  • The search engines also read the alt tags while ranking a website. Therefore by giving alt tags you can improve your websites ranking too! Also the images or videos can be searched for separately on media search facility.

Meaningful use of ALT tag

It is not only important to use alt tags but what is more important is to use them in the most appropriate manner. Following points should be kept in mind while using alt tags:

  • The alt text should be written as a suitable textual alternative to the image. Do not provide a description of the image without considering the purpose of the image on the page. For example, for an image of India placed on a page to denote the nation we can use alt tag as ‘Map of India’ but if it is also showing states with coal mine areas then the alt tag should read ‘Map of India showing different regions with coal mines’ and not just ‘Map of India’.
  • For decorative images like icons, bullets etc. a null alt must be given (ALT=" "). These will be ignored by the Screen readers making your site more disabled friendly.
  • A video with audio must be given a caption. The captioning must completely summarize the video to allow the viewer to follow the meaning of the content. Similarly, if there is a slide show which is "visual only", the graphics need to have alternative text representations.