ADA Compliance: “Picture” This - It’s only worth 1,000 words if you can see it.

Feb 28 2018
By Proteus in Insights

In our last blog, we explained what ADA compliance is and how it can affect your potential customers. Now, we will highlight one of the most common elements of ADA compliance: alternative (alt) text.

Alt text is a short description applied to the contents of an image tag, often describing the attributes of the image. There are multiple ways this information can help site visitors.  

Screen Reader Optimization

As we mentioned in our last blog, visually impaired users often utilize screen reading software. Screen readers cannot interpret images, but images can play a crucial part in how people interpret a particular web page.

If your site does not have alt text included on its images, your potential customer will miss the added value you are providing. They may skip over key information which could cause you to lose sales, not to mention website traffic.

Slow Browsers/Missing Images

Another common use for alt text information is in the case of slow loading browsers. People who have a limited data connection, or who are experiencing slow wifi may be unable to load images immediately. Users also may choose to load a page without images in order to view text content faster or preserve their data usage. This is particularly common in recent years as many people are utilizing mobile browsing. Other web visitors may utilize browsers plugins that purposely block images when they navigate to a new site.

In these cases, image alt text will be shown in place of the missing images. This allows you to communicate the purpose of the image, as well as encouraging users to allow their browser to show the images by increasing interest in the content they provide.

Search Engine Results

What is the first thing people do when they are looking for something, but don’t know where to find it? They search! (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.)

Using alt text improves your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and in turn can make it easier for potential clients to find you. Alt text and SEO work together to improve search engine rankings. Search engines use alt text to better judge what images are and how they relate to a particular search term. Image alt text that supports the main text content of your site not only helps potential customers find visuals related to their search, but also enhances the ranking of your page - by offering up the images as relevant content themselves.

Rule of Thumb

The alt text should establish the context for the purpose of that image and the page, without burdening those using screen readers with irrelevant information. Therefore, the alt text should be kept short to maximize its impact. Shorter alt text is more likely to be indexed efficiently by major online search engines such as Google.

As you add images to your site, it is helpful to update the alt text at the same time. This way, the content is fresh in your mind and you won’t risk having to go back and trying to think of a good description later, or forgetting to add the alt text all together.

Powering User Experiences

For clients of Proteus, it is easy to make these updates! Simply login to Proteus, find a text editor where an image is located, double click the image, and enter your preferred alt text in the “Alternative Text” field. After saving these changes, the alt text will now be attached to that image. Keep in mind, the alt text is not transferable with the image. Meaning, if you decide to add the same image to another location in the site, you will have to re-enter the alt text.

If you are having trouble finding the location of the alt text field, please reach out to our support team. If you’d like assistance in making these updates, contact us. We are your partners in making your site as accessible as possible.

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