Committing Internet Sins – Alt Tags

“Thou shall not put an image into a website without a proper alt tag”

A shortcut always seems like a great idea at the time. “Work smarter not harder,” doesn’t always seem to apply correctly to every situation. For me, I’ve been trying to break bad habits of certain shortcuts. I was taught how to hand code my websites, so I knew from the beginning that best practices in web design were that if you were to use any images, you best well have alt tags for them.

A meme of Boromir from The Lord of the Rings saying "One simply does not add an image without using a proper alt tag"

“Short cuts make long delays.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

What’s an ALT tag?

For the majority of the population who don’t work or know a lot about the coding world, ALT tags stand for Alternative Text Tag, which is an attribute for putting an image into a web page. It’s a description of the image being used so that if something were to fail in the browser, there would be a text description where the image should be, or for people who are vision impaired, it helps them navigate what is being displayed.

This is an image of an example of what the code of an alt tag looks like

Before I made my transition to working for a small web design business, I would have never dreamed of leaving an alt tag out when coding a picture. But in the environment of a fast-paced workplace, habits change. Instead of spending precious time describing photos, we would haphazardly throw photos into WordPress, generate the image code and plop it in wherever it needed to go. Since our clients never saw the alt tags (and most didn’t know what they were or that they were important), they never really knew they were without them.

Alt tags are generally invisible, so who cares?

A meme of an old comic of Batman Slapping Robin across the face because Robin said "Alt tags are invisible..." and Batman corrected him "Alt tags are for SEO and the vision impaired"

While it is true that alt tags were developed to be a failsafe for an image, they hold a different purpose today. Along with making sure coders, designers, and every human on the planet respects everyone equally, especially those who have impairments or special needs, alt tags have other purposes as well. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – for big search clients like Google- reward you for using alt tags, because you’re using keywords that people search for, which gives you more traffic to your site and boosts your rankings. Something as simple as including a description could help boost your website with more traffic. Or help a blind person experience what your trying to sell or say.

Ergophobia is the dreaded fear of returning to work - a hand lettered project by Gretchen Farwell that was developed as a class project for a skill share class

So how do you deal with your Ergophobia of alt tags? (Ergophobia is the dreaded fear of returning to work.) Try to hold yourself accountable. Remind yourself it’s the right thing to do, and that you get a little bonus as well. Using long descriptions are great too. The alt tag for the image above (if you’re wondering) goes as follows: “Ergophobia is the dreaded fear of returning to work – a hand-lettered project by Gretchen Farwell that was developed as a class project for a skillshare class.” While you may have to go back and fix a lot of mistakes, think of it as putting more equity into your website.