Do I need to write descriptive alt-text about people’s headshots?

No; our policy is to use “Headshot of [person’s name]” for these. Describing how people look is sensitive and not terribly useful information in context.

Do I need to write descriptive alt-text about thumbnail images?

Since thumbnails are intended to give sighted people just a brief indication of what they’ll see if they click, the alt-text should do the same! Be concise. The alt-text for the larger image should give more detail.

👉As a Sam Fox School website content author, be sure to check the “hint” text for the module you are editing for specific guidance about the type of alt-text to provide. This hint text should indicate when an image should have descriptive alt-text, blank alt-text, or perform another function.

Do I need to write descriptive alt-text for images of book or magazine covers?

If the design of the book cover is relevant to the context, please try! If not, you should still transcribe all legible text on the cover into the alt-text field.

What if the text on an image is illegible or in a language I don’t know?

That’s ok, we suggest simply stating that there is illegible text or text in a foreign language as part of the alt-text description.

Does every image need alt-text?

Not every image! If an image is purely decorative, like a border or a colorful page header, you should leave the alt-text field blank. But don’t forget that any image with legible text on it needs to be transcribed in the alt-text field!

Is there a limit on the length of the alt-text I can write?

There is no hard limit on the length of the alt-text field. 1-3 sentences or 125 characters is best practice, but writing more or less than that is ok. The recommended length is also to help you move through writing at a reasonable pace and not spend too much time on each description.

Do you have a tricky question we haven’t answered here? Please email Audrey Westcott and William Emery and we will help!