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Re: Creating accessible tables for layout and data: alt attributes

From: Jouni Heikniemi <jth@dns.mikrobitti.fi>
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2002 12:52:11 +0200 (EET)
To: Jim Byrne <j.byrne@gcal.ac.uk>
cc: W3c_Access <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.NEB.4.21.0201311234340.6628-100000@dns.mikrobitti.fi>
On Thu, 31 Jan 2002, Jim Byrne wrote:
> I like to provide as much text on my pages as possible, just in case a
> search engine robot comes along and decides to add my page to a searchable
> database.

I refrain from commenting your decision on the alt text issue, since you
obviously now know the practices and common suggestions made by the
accessibility society - and have made up your mind accordingly. Your site,
your rules. However, I'd like to make a point about the paragraph quoted

You shouldn't aim at getting high search engine index ratings by using alt
texts which have no real relation to the content of the page. If I
_really_ want to know something about, say, "pink flowers", I wouldn't
want Google to return a set of web accessibility pages simply because they
have pink flowers as their decoration.

However, this issue is debatable since many search engines support image
search which do index the images by their alt texts (among other things).
Therefore, someone searching for an image with pink flowers might actually
benefit from your "wrong" use of alt texts. 

My suggestion is that you promote accessibility and generic text-mode
readability by leaving the alt texts empty for the decorations, but
produce a separate gallery page ("images by me" or something similar)  
with appropriate titles and alts for those who are specifically looking
for images. The search engines will index that one just as well.

If you insist on leaving the alt texts into the text, you might consider
using [ ] (alt="[ decorative photo of pink flowers ]") around the alts.
Though this could have adverse effects with speech synthesis, it will help
pure text-mode browsing by clearly pointing out what is alt and what is
normal text.

Received on Thursday, 31 January 2002 05:57:15 UTC

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