Re: Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

Colin F Reynolds (colin@bespin.demon.co.uk)
Sat, 24 Jan 1998 15:35:35 -0500 (EST)


Date: Sat, 24 Jan 1998 15:35:35 -0500 (EST)
Message-ID: <kxVxglAiAly0EwvK@the-net-effect.com>
To: www-html@w3.org
From: Colin F Reynolds <colin@bespin.demon.co.uk>
In-Reply-To: <l0311070cb0ef146eae4e@[192.168.1.207]>
Subject: Re: Questionable implementation of IMG ALT attribute as tooltips

[I'm resending this, since my original post didn't seem to arrive. Odd.
Apologies if it's just me that didn't receive it...]

In article <l0311070cb0ef146eae4e@[192.168.1.207]>, Jordan Reiter
<jreiter@mail.slc.edu> writes
>Jukka Korpela felt an urge to reveal at 7:44 AM -0000 on 1/23/98:
>
>> An early (June 1993) draft for HTML,
>> <URL:http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/draft-ietf-iiir-html-01.txt>
>> described ALT as follows:
>>
>>   ALT                    Optional alternative text as an alternative
>>                          to the graphics for display in text-only
>>                          environments.
>>
>> On the other hand, it gave the following example (typos corrected here):
>>
>>         Warning: <IMG SRC ="triangle.gif" ALT="Warning:"> This must be
>>         done by a qualified technician.
>>
>> which suggests to me that they didn't really _mean_ what they wrote.
>
>As far as I see it, in a matter of *usefulness*, the most important thing
>ALT text can do is replace the *function* of the image. In other words, the
>triangle.gif could very well have been the standard "warning" icon--the
>triangle with the exclamation point in it. Here, the meaning is retained.

You are correct if you consider the image element on its own: however,
when taken _in context_ the ALT text here is *superfluous* to the
message, since when the image is unavailable the message reads:

 "Warning: Warning:This must be done by a qualified technician."[1]

The description of ALT quoted above is that it is an _optional_
_alternative_.

Since the word "warning" already appears in the text, adding it again as
ALT text is redundant.

Consider these two alternative examples which might have been used
instead.

Optional:
   Warning: <IMG SRC ="triangle.gif" ALT=""> This must be
   done by a qualified technician.

Alternative:
   <IMG SRC ="triangle.gif" ALT="Warning: "> This must be
   done by a qualified technician.

I agree with Jukka: the author of that ALT description didn't really
_mean_ what s/he said - or, worse, didn't understand the implications of
what was being written :(

So, getting back to my original point (about the inappropriate use of
ALT text as tooltips), does the above indicate that there is indeed
ambiguity in the specifications as to the purpose of ALT?

I repeat: If so, I move to resolve them.

===============
[1] Of course, it should read "Danger! Will Robinson..." (sorry, just
trying to inject a little humo[u]r here).
-- 
Colin Reynolds
"I know you believe you understand what you thought I said, but
I'm not sure you realize that what you heard was not what I meant!"