Just How Prolonged Should Alt Text Be? | CSS-Tips


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I educate a course above at the nearby college below in Long Seaside and a the vast majority of the content is hosted on the Canvas LMS so pupils can entry it on the net. And, obviously, I want the content to be as available as attainable, so thank goodness Canvas has a11y tooling developed right into it.

But it ain’t all that rosy. It will make assumptions like all other a11y tooling and adheres to tips that have been programmed into it. It’s not like the WCAG is baked proper in and updated when it updates.

The explanation this is even on my mind is that Jeremy yesterday described his like for creating graphic descriptions:

I love composing alt textual content. I lately described how I current my putting up interface listed here on my have web site to set a textarea for alt textual content front and centre for my notes with photos. Given that then I’ve been taking pleasure in the resourceful challenge of producing useful—but also evocative—alt text.

I purchase into that! Writing alt textual content is a problem that demands a sensitive dance among the technical and the resourceful. It’s both of those an opportunity to make information more obtainable and enrich the consumer expertise.

A single of all those programmed pointers in the Canvas device is a cap of 120 characters on alt textual content. Why 120? I dunno, I could not locate any supporting guideline or rule for that exact selection. A person reply is that display audience halt announcing textual content after 125 people, but that is evidently untrue, at the very least these days. The basic advice for how lengthy alt textual content must be comes in various degrees:

  • Jake Archibald talks of duration in conditions of emotion. Element is great, but as well significantly element may well distort the focal level, which can make total perception.
  • Dave sees them as brief, succinct paragraphs.
  • Carrie Fisher indicates a 150-character limit not simply because display visitors will truncate them but more as a psychological observe that perhaps factors are obtaining much too descriptive.
  • Daniel Göransson says in this 2017 information that it comes down to context and recognizing when particular specifics of an picture are really worth added clarification. But he typically errs on the aspect of conciseness.

So, how very long should really alt text be? The typical consensus here is that there is no difficult restrict, but more of a contextual consciousness of what reason the image serves and adapting to it accordingly.

Which receives me again to Jeremy’s report. He was producing alt textual content for a group of speaker headshots and understood the text was all starting to audio the identical. He paused, considered about the expertise, in contrast it to the working experience of a sighted person, and made parity in between them:

The far more speakers have been extra to the line-up, the much more I felt like I was repeating myself with the alt text. […] The experience of a sighted person seeking at a website page comprehensive of speakers is that right after a though the photos kind of mix jointly. So if the alt text also commences to sound a bit repetitive soon after a whilst, probably that’s not this sort of a negative matter. A display reader user would be acquiring an equivalent knowledge.

I dig that. So if you’re on the lookout for a challenging and quickly rule on character counts, sorry to disappoint. Like so a lot of other factors, context is king and that is the kind of detail that just can’t be codified, or even automated for that subject.

And whilst we’re on the subject, just observed that Twitter has UI to screen alt textual content:

Now if only there was more distinction between that textual content and the background… a11y is challenging.

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