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Re: WD-WAI-PAGEAUTH-0203 and the use of ALT text

From: Colin F Reynolds <colin@the-net-effect.com>
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 1998 19:20:16 +0000
Message-ID: <kBUx8JBwb130Ewkj@the-net-effect.com>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
In article <Pine.SUN.3.95.980206105841.26401B-100000@ariel.ucs.unimelb.E
DU.AU>, Jason White <jasonw@ariel.ucs.unimelb.EDU.AU> writes
> > > And
>in the "possible strategies", again we have a
>description
>of > information, instead of the information itself.  <IMG src="logo.gif" 
>> alt="XYZ Logo"> cannot possibly be right, in my view.  If the logo is
>> there in order to identify the company, then the name of the company would
>> be appropriate, e.g ALT="XYZ Corp", whereas if the company name is already
>> present in clear text, then ALT="" would seem more appropriate, unless
>> their logo is somehow pertinent to the topic under discussion, rather
>> than mere identification.
>The question here is whether it is important for the reader to know that
>there is a logo present at this point in the document, as well as the name
>of the company.

Why do you feel that to be the case? Surely the logo merely serves to
identify the company, and, if not present, a suitable ALTernative
company identifier should appear in its place - the fact that the logo
is not being displayed is irrelevant (not to mention obvious!).

> The best solution to this problem would actually identify
>both the name of the organisation and indicate the signifiance of the
>logo. For an excellent example, see http://www.srl.rmit.edu.au

I assume you refer to the first image on this page: 

  <IMG SRC="http://www.srl.rmit.edu.au/images/1cmsunriselogo.gif"
  ALT="A smiling yellow sun rising into a blue sky: the sunrise logo"
  HEIGHT=23 WIDTH=22 ALIGN=RIGHT>

IMO this is incorrect usage of ALT, since the additional information -
that the image is a logo is of _no_ benefit to those who

 1. have chosen not to load images
 2. are using a web-to-speech device
 3. are blind

I would suggest that better examples for this image would be:

 A. ALT="" (since the page is already identified in the header)
 B. ALT=" Sunrise " (if it is deemed necessary to reinforce the message
    that this page is about an Organization called "Sunrise")

If required, "A smiling yellow sun rising into a blue sky" would, IMO,
be better included as a LONGDESC, describing the image.

Option "A" above has the added benefit that <A HREF="http://www.the-net-
effect.com/bad-tooltips.html">BAD</A> browsers don't show an irritating
tooltip of the ALT content...

>> With a little thought it's possible to choose ALT texts such that the text
>> reads naturally, and the text-mode reader is scarcely aware of the
>> "seams". Pages that have been composed "by rote", putting ALT="XYZ logo" 
>> whenever the logo occurs, tend to read idiotically on a text mode
>> browser.  Almost as bad as those that have ALT="large red bullet" etc.
>I agree. The logo is best described perhaps only once, on the home page.
>Thereafter, it could be treated as decorative and receive a null ALT
>value.

This assumes a linear reading of the site, which is not what happens in
practice - visitors can, and will, drop in anywhere; so if your
ALTernative information is deemed of sufficient import on one page, then
shouldn't it appear everwhere else, too?

>> I would rather say "The ALT text should substitute for the
>> _purpose_ of the image; the mere description of the graphic will rarely be
>> appropriate for doing that". 
>> 
>I agree.

Me, too :)
-- 
Colin Reynolds, The Net Effect (World Wide) Ltd
http://www.the-net-effect.com/
Tel: +44 (0)1246 450 901
Fax: +44 (0)1246 450 902
Received on Monday, 9 February 1998 15:45:16 GMT

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