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RE: lynx & title attribute

From: Jon Hanna <jon@spinsol.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 15:53:59 +0100
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Hash: SHA1

> I am grateful for your responses, perhaps part of the problem I'm 
> having is
> that ie6 renders the title as a 'tooltip' whereas lynx renders the
> alt. This leaves me a little non-plussed. The title is additional
> information, however if the image is rendered, then the user first
> needs the 
> alt tag....
> so I am still muddled.

I think you are muddled because you are confusing some browsers
(somewhat flawed) rendering of alt with it's purpose.

NS2 (I think that was the first) introduced the practice of
displaying the alt text for an image as a toolTip/Balloon-Help.
This wasn't a terribly bad idea, for while alt should be equivalent
to the image itself (as much as possible) the toolTip idea handled
cases where poor authoring meant information could be gained from the
alt text that could not be gained elsewhere. It was also of use to
some partially-sighted users who wanted to see pictures, but who had
difficulty with text-as-images (and in the case of some images that
would include those of us with 20/20 or 20/20 corrected as well!).
The problem with this is that the best text for a toolTip isn't
necessarily, or even all that often, the best text to replace an
image if only text is available for rendering (as it is on Lynx,
screen-readers, and Braille devices). Since most designers (web-pages
stopped being "authored" and started being "designed" around this
period as well) think, intentionally or not, primarily about users of
graphical browsers, they started thinking of alt as the toolTip text,
not as ALTernative text. Others didn't like the toolTips (and they
are annoying when you don't need them) and would deliberately leave
out alt text.
Since there is a place for toolTips, or other means to elaborate on
possibly confusing objects, as well as for textual alternatives for
images the title attribute was created. The purpose of the title
attribute is to provide additional information, whereas alt provides
the same information in a different way. The obvious way to render
this on graphical browsers working in windowed environments is as a
toolTip, this is recommended by the W3C (but not mandated IIRC) and
IE4+ does this, although if no toolTip is specified it will use the
alt-text for reasons of backwards-compatibility.

> Is ignoring the title attribute maybe simplest?

No, title is very useful, but serves a completely different purpose
to the alt text. Consider the following:

<a href="/"><img src="logo.gif" alt="Company Name" title="Go to home
page" /></a>

Assuming the logo is "Company Name" in a particular format then if
you can't get the image you may well wish to display the name to have
a branding effect, and to head the page with that name. Our logo is
following the convention that top-left logos link to the home page,
and the title provides a cue to this behaviour, on IE4+ this will be
displayed as a toolTip for the image. The sighted user of IE4+
doesn't need to be told what the image says (if the image is
reasonably large), but may gain from the *additional* information in
the title. The text-based user gets the logo rendered as well as
possible through text. They may also have some way of receiving the
title information as well. (One thing about this though is that if
there isn't another clear way to get to the home page on that page
then the alt text probably should include that information so people
don't get orphaned deep in the site).

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Received on Thursday, 20 September 2001 10:50:42 UTC

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