Use Alternative Text (Alt-text) for Accessibility & SEO

Created by Margie Wylie-Petruzziello, Modified on Fri, 19 Jan at 1:17 PM by Margie Wylie-Petruzziello

Why Alt-Text?

A little alt-text (alternative text) can go a long way in making websites more accessible and more searchable. 

  • Alt-text is read aloud for visually impaired website visitors, 
  • Displayed if an image is broken or loads slowly, and 
  • Relied on by search engines, including Google and (our internal search provider), to index both the image and the page it appears on. 

So, alt-text plays an important role in search engine optimization, as well.

Best practices for alt-text

  • Describe what you see without embellishment. (examples: "John Doe standing in front of Shyh Wang Hall" or “Saul Perlmutter posed in front of a background of stars.”) 

  • Keep it short. A dozen words or less is a good rule of thumb. 

  • For decorative images, leave an empty alt tag. (alt=“ ”) If an image is purely decorative without adding any information to the surrounding text, mark it with an empty alt tag by including a single space in the alternative text field. This signals to screen readers and search engines that the alt text was purposefully omitted. If you do not fill edit the alternative text field, the CMS will not generate an alt-text tag at all, making the image completely in accessible to screen readers. 

Where to enter alt-text in the CMS

Each time you place an image, you will be offered the change to adjust it's placement, size, caption, and alternative text. You must add alternative text every time you place an image. Alt-tex does not persist in the image database. Why? Depending on the context in which you are using that image, the alternative text may be different. 

Learn more on adjusting alternative text for its context.

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