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Re: Empty vs no alt attribute (was Re: Baby Steps or Backwards Steps?)

From: Marghanita da Cruz <marghanita@ramin.com.au>
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2007 10:30:41 +1000
Message-ID: <46CB83B1.7040506@ramin.com.au>
To: Chris Blouch <cblouch@aol.com>
CC: joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie, Sander Tekelenburg <st@isoc.nl>, HTMLWG <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org, Don Evans <donald.evans@corp.aol.com>

Chris Blouch wrote:
> Two aspects that seem to be overlooked in the discussion.
> 1. While there is an expectation that alt should be used for alternative 
> equivalent text descriptions, in practice many browsers also use it for 
> their popup "tooltips". This had lead some site authors to assume the 
> purpose was more supplemental rather than alternative so they have 
> stored additional meta data rather than real descriptions. Hence we see 
> sites putting up "200x100 GIF Image July 12, 2007" as their alt text 
> instead of a real content description. While this is incorrect use of 
> the attribute, it is hardly a surprising assumption based on browser 
> behavior.

As an HTML author, I use the alt text as a caption - the kind of additional 
information I tend to provide is Photographer or Artist's name. The 200x100 
should be provided in the  height/width attributes of the image. Date is useful. 
I also assume the alt text is used to index images. For example

I would like to see all browsers display the alt text and other attributes as a
"mouseover" rather than with a right click for properties.

> 2. The problem with allowing images without alt attributes in some cases 
> is that this essentially writes a loop hole into the standard. This then 
> puts the burden on the standard to sufficiently constrict this loop hole 
> such that it can't be abused. Hardening any loophole in a set of rules 
> is difficult at best. We need look no further than laws of governing 
> bodies for examples. As for the presence of alt tags being provisionally 
> required, it would seem to be simpler to require them in all cases and 
> then move debate to defining the presence and quality of the 
> descriptions themselves, whether good, lousy or absent. At least this 
> makes for any easy minimum test, a test which many tools already 
> implement. Loopholes for poor or missing alt text would be a more 
> fertile ground for work in the standard, but still a quagmire.
> I suggest that missing alt text should be called out in a manner that 
> points out the author's mistake (either directly or via their tools). 
> Something like "Author did not provide alternative text" or whatever 
> wordsmithing is desired. This provides a means for discoverability by 
> others to feed back to the source that something is wrong. If Grandma 
> sees no tool tip or one that says just "undefined" she will ignore it. 
> If she sees a message pointing fingers at my failure to do something 
> right I might actually get an email from her. In other words, while the 
> tooltip and non-descriptive errors for alt text may not directly enable 
> users who need alternative content, it can enable other users to seek 
> out resolution to a problem that was previously invisible to many.
> CB
> joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie wrote:
>> Sander Tekelenburg wrote:
>>> I cannot imagine how alt="unknown" could be useful to anyone. 
>> I am also at a loss to understand how this is useful. Is it expected
>> that screen readers would read output "unknown" when they came across
>> and image that used the attribute in this way?
>> Josh

Marghanita da Cruz
Phone: 0414 869202
Received on Wednesday, 22 August 2007 00:31:52 UTC

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