How to... Embed an Image with Expressive Image Alt Text


Mason prides itself on its dedication to inclusivity. As such, every member of the SiteMasonry ecosystem is expected to support digital inclusion by adding alt text to the images they use on their sites.

What is Alt Text and Why is Alt Text Important?

Also known as an alt attribute, alt description, or alt tag, alt text is a written description of an image placed on the web. It is intended to help non-visual users (i.e. those who use screen readers) when they come across an image that they could not otherwise interpret. Describing images accurately in alt text ensures those who need it get an equivalent, accessible experience.

Meeting Standards for Accessibility

As a publically-funded institution, George Mason University is required to meet WCAG 2.0 web accessibility standards.  Adding alt text to images helps meet the WCAG 2.0 image description requirement, as well as supports Mason's dedication to inclusivity.

Mason’s Assistive Technology Initiative (ATI) office monitors Mason’s sites for Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 compliance - including the use of image alt text. ATI’s website lists information, resources, and tools to help web content editors keep their content accessible to everyone, regardless of their sight, hearing, or mobility status.

Add Alt Text, Boost Page SEO

Did you know that search engines deprioritize pages without alt text on images? If your images don't have alt text, your page will rank lower than a page with alt text on its images. Adding alt text is therefore an easy way to ensure your page stays high in the rankings.


Writing Good Alt Text

Good descriptive alt text should accurately and concisely describe the content and function of an image, without relying on visual cues. Alt text is primarily used to provide context and accessibility for individuals who are visually impaired or using assistive technologies like screen readers.

Here are some tips for writing good descriptive alt text:

  1. Be specific: Use descriptive words to convey as much information as possible about the image.

  2. Be concise: Keep your alt text short and to the point. Avoid overly long descriptions that may be overwhelming or distracting.

  3. Focus on the content: Identify the main elements of the image that are relevant to its function and convey that information in the alt text.

  4. Consider the context: Think about where the image is being used and how it fits into the overall content. The alt text should provide context and complement the surrounding text.

  5. Avoid unnecessary details: Stick to the most important information and avoid including irrelevant details that may clutter the alt text.

  6. Use appropriate language: Use language that is appropriate for the audience and the context. Avoid technical jargon or overly complex language that may be difficult to understand.

If the image contains text that is key information not provided elsewhere on the site, you should include all that text in the alt text. This ensures that individuals who are visually impaired or using assistive technologies like screen readers can access all the information in the image. If the text is formatted in a specific way, include that information in the alt text. For example, you might say "Bold text reads..." or "Italicized text reads..."

Ask yourself if the image adds any important information or function to the content. If not, it's likely that the image is decorative. If the image is decorative only and does not convey any important information or function, you should use null or empty alt text. This means leaving the alt attribute empty or using alt="". This tells screen readers to skip over the image and focus on the surrounding text instead.


Adding Alt Text in SiteMasonry

There are two occasions where you might be asked to add alt text to an image. One is when uploading an image that is going to be used in a Featured Image position or similar. The other is when adding an embedded image into a text box.

Adding an image via the Feature Image block asks you to add alt text for your image when you upload it. Embedded images do not, as they show up. You need to click "edit media" to see the setting to add alt text to an image.

If you are using an image that was already uploaded the alt text may or may not be set already, depending on how it was uploaded. You can always check by searching the image file name in the Media area, then editing the image's settings.