Re: Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

James Green (
Thu, 22 Jan 1998 21:52:27 +0000 (GMT)

From: James Green <>
In-Reply-To: <>
Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 1998 21:52:27 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Re: Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

On Wed, 21 Jan 1998 17:24:53 -0500 (EST) Colin F Reynolds 
<> wrote:

> In article <>, James Green
> <> writes
[ ... ]

> >No, forget what the browsers do in such a trivial instance.
> You may consider it trivial: I call it a serious flaw in the interface,
> due to the _impossibility_ of providing wording which serves both as
> _alternative_ and _supplementary_ information for the object.

HTML never gave supplementary descriptive contents. You should not 
design ALT tag value to be descriptive.

> > Unless a 
> >popular browser makes a display 'mistake' which has some marked impact 
> >on your site, don't worry about it.
> This is _exactly_ what is happening. The implementation of ALT-as-popup
> in recent versions of the most popular browsers impairs the
> functionality of *every* page of *every* site for which I am
> responsible. I do not call this "trivial".

"Impairs"? I fail to see this.

> I expect that many of the visitors to the sites I maintain are not only
> Internet newbies, but are also often barely computer-literate. Providing
> misleading, distracting cues is the last thing you must do for such an
> audience.

I believe those that have seen tooltips before will know their 
difference within a web browser - it's not too difficult. Those who 
haven't will be able to see the ALT tag for additional value.

> I don't like it, which is why I'm trying to find a solution to the
> problem.

> James, if you speak for the W3C (do you?), then I guess I have no
> alternative but to throw my hands up in the air in despair (and go nuts
> ;)

No, I don't speak for the W3C.

> [snippage of irrelevant anecdote]
> > As I said, in the case of ALT, they (the 
> >programmers) probably made it a tooltip seeing the advantages while 
> >there not being any(?) disadvantages.
> Semantically, ALT text and Tooltips are quite different. The former is,
> or _should be_, for use where the image is unavailable (to the user
> agent); standard UI practice dictates that the latter should be used to
> provide optional _additional_ clues where the image is an hyperlink.

Look, I really don't see your problem:

 *Incorrect usage*:

   ALT="There would normally be a picture here..."

 *Correct usage*:

   ALT="Pic: Abraham Lincoln"


Now, following these guidelines, where is your problem???


James Green

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