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Alternative Text

Alternative Text (commonly referred to as alt text) is an informative description of an image as it relates to the content on the page.

There isn’t an exact science to writing alt text.

Image of, Photo of, Logo of, Profile of, etc

Assertive devices already say “graphic” or image before reading the alt text. Simple describe the image without identifying the image type.

Profile images can simple be the person’s name. A logo can simply be the company’s name.

Extraneous Information

Be sure that all users are getting the same information. Don’t provide some information to one type of user and not the other.

For example, this image of the toddler pulling on his ear provides additional information in the alt text.

The image shows a toddler pulling on his ear, a common behavior when children have ear aches.
Alt text = The image shows a toddler pulling on his ear, a common behavior when children have ear aches.
Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, professor of archeology
Alt text = Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, professor of archeology


WebAim’s Wave Evaluation Tool


Wave results page »

A screen capture of a portion of the webpage using WebAIM Wave Evaluation Tool with the altenative text for two images highlighted.

Suggested Solutions

Toddler Image

An appropriate fix for this image would be to remove most of the alternative text and just describe the image with “A toddler pulling on his ear.”

“An image of” is already spoken by the assistive device.

“A common behavior when children have ear aches” is providing information to one user group (those using assistive devices) that another user group (those not using assistive devices) would not receive.

Adding a caption about the common behavior would provide the information for both user groups.

A toddler pulling on his ear
A toddler pulling on his ear is a common behavior when children have ear aches.

Indiana Jones

We can not tell from the image that Dr. Jones is an archaeologist.

Context helps determine the alt text.Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones

If this image is used on a profile page any of these alt text would be appropriate.

  • Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones
  • Henry Walton Jones
  • Henry Jones

If this image is an article about Dr. Jones, then these would be appropriate.

  • Dr. Jones gestures to a chalk board behind him.
  • Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones gestures to a chalk board.
  • “Indiana” Jones gestures to a chalk board.

If this image is on a page that is not about “Indiana” Jones, then these would be an appropriate.

  • Professor gesturing to a chalkboard.
  • Instructor gesturing to a chalkboard behind him.