Alt tags should be funny

There was a picture of Earth on my client’s intranet site the other day. It was quite clearly not a photo, as it was surrounded by a circle of light to make it stand out all the more from the black background of space.

It bore the Alt tag “Earth, as seen from space”, which displayed on hover, consigned as I was to using the travesty that is IE. The clear mistruth represented by the tag got me thinking about a theme I’ve pondered numerous times before: alt tags should be funny.

Blind people have life hard enough. An entire sense is missing and with all of the accessibility technology in the world, their experience will always fall somewhat short of that of a sighted user. (Although they will never experience the blinding orange of Directgov, so maybe it does have some blessings.)

So to enhance their experience in other ways, why not make the alt text for images funny? The Earth picture might be tagged “Earth, surrounded rather bizarrely by a ring of fire”. The attractiveness or otherwise of people in photos might be referenced. (“Distressingly ugly ginger chap walking, to the cosmetic surgery, perhaps”, for example.) The world’s your oyster and you might just enrich the web experience for some of your users.

Maybe it’s not a technique to be advocated on all sites, but some could doubtless benefit.


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