Don’t make alt text an afterthought

As I write this, I’ve been uploading lots of content to my website (for my toolkit on charity homepages). The process got me thinking about alt text – the copy that describes an image for someone who’s blind or visually impaired – and how it fits into the content creation process.

I’ve got lots of images in this toolkit, and I spent a long time writing the alt text – it ended adding almost 2,000 words to my total word count. And now I’m spending even more time copying and pasting it into WordPress.

Copy paste work and alt text are indelibly linked in my brain. Ctrl+C Ctrl+V was my bread and butter when I first started out as a content producer. And uploading content almost always involved writing lots of alt text because no one else had thought about it earlier in the process. So I noticed the contrast with this project , where the alt text was all planned out and written in advance.

Just like any other content, writing alt text at the last minute is a bad idea. If you’re rushing mistakes will invariably start to creep in. The two big ones I see/make are:

  1. Just describing the image rather than thinking about the meaning of it. For example, ‘A woman winking’ is very different to ‘Agatha from WandaVision doing a very exaggerated stage wink’.
Agatha from WandaVision doing a very exaggerated stage wink’
  1. Not giving it the same checking and sign off process. Typos in alt text are common, we’re only human after all. But I’ve also seen people typing in things like ‘blahblahblah’ or even something inappropriate because they were just thinking about filling in a field, not what the alt text is actually for.

Don’t let alt text be an afterthought. Any time you use an image – on your website, your social media posts, in your emails – make sure you write the alt text in advance and put it through the same checks all your other content goes through. If you’re using a content template, make sure alt text is included in it.

Alt text reading list

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