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RE: ALT text

From: Liam Quinn <liam@htmlhelp.com>
Date: Thu, 05 Feb 1998 18:50:54 -0500
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To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
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At 12:56 PM 05/02/98 -0800, Charles (Chuck) Oppermann wrote:
>This message, along with Daniel's interpretation of the use of TITLE and 
>raises the issue of clear standardization.
>To me, ALT is always a textual description of the image ("ALTernative
>representation").  TITLE is related to function.

To me, it's exactly the opposite.  ALT is ALTernative text, and so should 
act as a complete alternative to the image.  A description of the image is 
a supplement, not an alternative.  An alternative is something that takes 
the place of something else, and so the ALT text should replace the image.

>It's a shame that with <AREA> the guidelines have already converted the
>original meaning of ALT into a more functional role, this is exactly what
>TITLE was intended for.

Again, I take the opposite view.  Do you have a source that describes the 
"original meaning of ALT"?  I've never found the W3C Recommendations 
adequate in their description of ALT.

>The problems arise with image only links.  Where does TITLE go?

The <IMG> can have a TITLE describing the graphic, and the <A> can have a 
TITLE describing the link.  Note that TITLE with elements like A is 
*descriptive* rather than *functional*.  The link itself gives the 
function implicitly.

>I say as
>part of the <A> tag, since the *function* of the image is where it's
>directing you to (the link).
>For example:
><A HREF=foo.htm TITLE="Enter my world">
><IMG SRC=globe.gif ALT="Spinning Globe picture">

I'd go with

<A HREF=foo.htm TITLE="Enter my world"><IMG SRC=globe.gif ALT="Enter my 
world" TITLE="Spinning globe"></A>

Think about how today's text-only browsers would present this:

_Enter my world_

rather than

_Spinning Globe picture_

Using ALT functionally provides the necessary information for text-only 
browsers, while using it descriptively provides a cruel reminder to the 
text-only user that the Web doesn't like him.

Of course one could argue that text-only browsers have the implementation 
backwards if you agree with Chuck's interpretation of ALT and TITLE.  
Clearly we need to decide which is which.  To me, the words suggest the 
meaning I have described, but I recognize that others interpret this 
differently.  So what about looking at the issue from the point of view of 
existing implementations?  Text-only browsers and search engines use the 
ALT attribute as a replacement for the IMG; I assume speech browsers do 
the same.  Since text-only browsers and speech browsers are the most 
important targets of browser accessibility, perhaps we should yield to 
these existing implementations.

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Liam Quinn
Web Design Group            Enhanced Designs, Web Site Development
http://www.htmlhelp.com/    http://enhanced-designs.com/
Received on Thursday, 5 February 1998 18:49:34 UTC

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