The relevant parts of an image aren’t limited to the cold hard facts. Images can make you feel a particular way, and that’s something that should be made available to a screen reader user.
“Emotion matters” really changed how I think about writing alt text. Léonie wrote a longer article on the idea, which I recommend reading.
So just what is a decorative image? It seems to me that one person’s eye candy is another person’s emotional link to a website.
A good alt text can conjure up wonderfully stimulating mental images. A friendly smile is the same in print, photo or wax crayon. Whether you listen to an image or see it, the emotional response is the key factor, so why should we recommend that these emotion rich images should be given a null alt text and hidden from screen reader users?
Perhaps it’s time we introduced another group of images: Emotion rich images and encouraged the practice of providing descriptive alt texts for them. If people don’t want to listen to the alt text, they won’t. If people don’t want to pause and look at the image, they won’t. In either case, it’s good to have the choice.
So much emotion is lost with conventional alt text wisdom.
- “One person’s eye candy is another person’s emotional link.“
- “It’s time we introduced another group of images: Emotion rich images and encouraged the practice of providing descriptive alt texts for them.”
That’s a welcome reframing of decorative images that I’ll apply going forward.