Everybody knows that a picture can be worth a thousand words but did you know that, on the web, seven words can be worth a picture? In a great article on A List Apart this month, Amber Simmons writes about the importance of good writing to the design of a website.
One thing that struck me was her remarks about the use of text in the alt attribute of images. Accessibility guidelines state that every visible image on your site should have text in the alt attribute. For search optimization, we recommend that the alt attribute text should include the key phrase being targeted for the page but this isn’t just about SEO. After all, the image should reflect the page theme just like the key phrase. Otherwise, why is the image on the page?
The SEO world likes to pat itself on the back and look superior whenever anyone brings up the topic of web accessibility for the disabled. After all, web design that is optimal for a search engine has to be optimal for a screen reader, right? Well, the situation is not as clear cut as you might think.
One little point of conflict is how to treat skip links. Skip links are page internal links that skip directly to the main content of a site. Many sites have skip links including www.irs.gov and news.bbc.co.uk. They are part of the web accessibility initiative for implementing US Government section 508 requirements on making websites accessible to the disabled. In fact, all U.S. government sites are required to be accessible to the disabled and with our aging population, it just makes sense for the rest of us to get on board.