Alt text: What is it and what is it good for?

Have you ever navigated to a website where in place of a picture there is a broken image icon accompanied by a description? This description is known as alternative text or alt text. If an image is not loading properly due to low bandwidth or other technical issues, the alt text will be displayed in its place.

Aside from acting as a stand-in for broken images, alt text plays a big part in making a website accessible. Alt text can also improve a site’s Search Engine Optimization and overall user experience.

Those who are familiar with accessibility know that alternative text and accessibility go hand in hand. In fact, alternative text is the first issue addressed in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium and, in guidance offered by the Department of Justice in March 2022, were advised as a good standard to follow to make a site accessible.

Guideline 1.1 states, “Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.”


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