Empty alt attributes for photographs?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : MCU - Accessible Web Design : One Thread

After publishing my Table Manners article I got an e-mail from Jouni Heikniemi pointing out some problems with my use of the alt attribute for the photographs on the page. To summarise - he suggested I should use empty alt attributes rather than the descriptions I used. He also point me to some good articles on the subjetct, by Jukka Korpela and Alan Flavell.

As a solution to the possible problems created by my use of alt attributes on the Table Manners' article I have added the text 'Decorative image:' followed by a description of the image. I decided not to use an empty alt attribute for the following reasons:

The photos, although mostly decorative are used on occasion to add a comment, or provide a humourous or analogous connections with the text. These are not intended to be obvious and are not essential for understanding of the text. An example would be the stop sign that is the first image on the Table Manners article - in long hand I could be saying "Stop! you shouldn't be using tables for layout", or I might not - the reader may or may not make a connection. By providing some text descriptions of the photo this 'function' is still retained.

It is useful for people browsing with images off to see what a photo is about - and they can do this by reading the alt text. They may want to click to load a particular image they are interested in.

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.

Some people like to know what they are missing- even if they are browsing with a text only browser.

I take all the photos myself and it makes me happy to provide descriptions of them on my pages. This reason of course is purely selfish and doesn't add a jot to the debate on how to use alt attributes on Web pages. :-)

-- Anonymous, January 31, 2002

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