20 December 2007

When it needs to be perfect

Now, this is not something I would normally consider to be that big an issue, but the source is critical.

Check out the Web site for the United States Access Board at [http://www.access-board.gov/]. Ideally in Firefox, where you can turn on alt attributes in the Web developers' toolbar. Look at the alt value for the masthead: "banner with Board logo and photo of Board office".

They do have the name of the site above it, hidden away with CSS, for text readers, but still ...


Equivalent content! Equivalent content is content that serves the same function as that which is replaces. This equivalency is one of intent and meaning, not of visual appearance.

It is really annoying to be looking for what something is and find a description of what it looks like. Imagine the following conversation.

Bob: Hey, that's a great looking car you bought. I've never seen one like it. What kind is it?
Phil: It's a blue one.
Bob: I can see that, but what kind is it?
Phil: Well, it's a sleek little sports coupe.
Bob: Very funny Phil. Really, who makes it?
Phil: The company makes this sleek little sports coupe.

Depending on the amount of beer involved, Bob may or may not hit Phil at this point. This is the sort of thing that happens when you use alt attributes to describe what something pretty obviously is, instead of providing the needed information. We really don't need badly chosen descriptions mixed with beer leading to interpersonal violence.

Perhaps another example is in order more in keeping with the nature of the infraction here.

Bobbi: Hey, Philomena! I hear you got a new job.
Philomena: Yeah. I really like it.
Bobbi: Cool, where's it at?
Philomena: The company logo with the corporate motto forming a circle around it.
Bobbi: Oooo-kay.

Bobbi moves slowly away from Philomena, and Philomena later wonders why Bobbi won't go clubbing with her anymore. Another friendship destroyed by bad descriptions.

You get the idea.

Maybe it would be better if the alt text for the logo was exactly what the text in the logo is: "The United States Access Board - A Federal Agency Committed to Accessible Design". Then if the image doesn't load, there is something useful in its place.

Seems like a no brainer. Maybe not.

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