What is Alternative Text?

When you open a song after purchasing it online, you may notice that your music player automatically knows not only the song’s name, but also its associated artist, track listing, and album title. This information is likely coded into your song’s data file, completely unknown to the user until you decide to look at the information.

Alternative text is like a song’s hidden attributes coding, only for images. Unobservable to most users, alternative text is a short description written by the uploader that describes an image for the benefit of users who may need more information about the image. Examples of such populations include people with visual disabilities who use assistive technology to read alternative text, or people with limited or capped internet functionality who chose to turn images off to save data.

Alternative text, also known as Alt-Text, is written by the uploader and then automatically applied to the image via coding behind the scenes. Luckily in our modern era, no coding experience is needed to add alt-text to web images. Platforms such as Cascade, Canvas, Microsoft Office, and most social media sites make it easy to add alternative text to images.

Beyond improving access to people with disabilities and ensuring compliance with web accessibility standards, alternative text also improves your site’s search engine optimization (SEO), making it easier to find on search engines.

All images should have alt-text applied to them with the exception of images that are solely decorative in nature and lend no discernible meaning. These images, known as decorative images, must be coded as such (see How to Apply Alt-Text.)

There are two components to Alternative Text, writing a good image description and then applying it as alt-text to the image. See the links below for more information on each:

How to Write a Good Image Description

How to Apply Alt-Text

To jump to a specific platform, click from one of the links below:


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