OK jewelers and metalsmiths – you’ve made a gorgeous body of work, photographed it, and built a website.
Now it’s time to make it more accessible.
I heart alt text so much. It is a powerful tool website accessibility. While alt text is not the only tool at your disposal to make your site accessible, it is an important one.
It’s OK if you didn’t know about this important aspect of your website before now. Here is a guide to what it is, why you want it, and how to write it.
(Author’s note – if you are already familiar with alt text, scroll down to the How to Write It and Where to Put It sections.)
Alt text is the small bit of text that you use to describe an image on your website. Sometimes it is also called an alt attribute, or alt tags. All major eCommerce platforms have a place for you to add alt text.
How it works – someone with a visual impairment needs and wants to use a website. In order to do so, they use a screen reader that reads the page out loud. When it hits an image on the page, it doesn’t skip it, it reads whatever description you’ve given it.
This is what alt text is primarily for – to provide descriptions of your photos.
Other people who need alt text include folks with limited internet bandwidth – ever have super slow internet that won’t load images? Having alt text there helps you figure out if there is important information in those photos.
Oh! And alt text is super useful to anyone who uses image blockers in their email. If images aren’t loading, it is important to describe them.
Why you want it
There are lots of reasons, but the most essential reason is that accessibility and inclusivity help everyone navigate the internet.
For us as small business owners, there are also practical reasons why we need alt text. And there are no downsides to adding it to your website.
Reason #1 – Having a website that is inaccessible means that you are potentially leaving money on the table. After all, if someone can’t use or navigate your website, then they also can’t buy from you.
Reason #2 – All of the text that’s on your website is searchable via search engines like Duck Duck Go, Mozilla, Google, etc. You give yourself your best advantage if you have good information on your site. And this means having searchable text on your images.
Reason #3 is my own – I consider accessibility to be a basic aspect of running a website, and I strive to make mine as accessible as I know how to.
How to write it
Alt text has one purpose, and multiple benefits and it’s core purpose is to be read by people, not bots.
So whenever you write alt text, think about what another person needs to know about the image.
Put yourself into the head of a customer searching for jewelry.
Think about how they would describe it, and try to answer their questions.
Is it the material? The shape? The stone? If it is shown on an ear?
Use keywords sparingly, and make sure that they are relevant to the image.
Be descriptive and don’t rely on an older internet practice of “keyword stuffing” *
Keep your alt text under 150 characters or 12 words so that they are understandable and readable.
Here is a photo of some earrings. The alt text reads “oxidized silver eye-shaped stud earrings on a steel slab”.