Alt Text

What role does Alt Text play in accessibility?


Alt text, short for alternative text, is a crucial aspect of web accessibility. It is used to provide a text alternative to non-text content such as images, videos, and graphics. Alt text ensures that users with visual impairments or those using assistive technologies, such as screen readers, can understand the content conveyed by these elements. The good news is that most of your alt text needs are met by the Zen Cart software. However, images you add to areas other than categories or products (e.g., Define Pages or EZ-Pages) will need to have alt text added. In this article, we will explore the importance of alt text in web accessibility and recommend some best practices for creating effective alt text.

The Importance of Alt Text in Web Accessibility

  • Providing Context: Alt text offers context and information about images and other non-text elements, enabling users who cannot perceive these elements visually to understand their purpose or content.

  • Assisting Screen Reader Users: Screen readers rely on alt text to describe images to users with visual impairments. Well-crafted alt text ensures that these users are not excluded from comprehending the visual content on the website.

  • Enhancing SEO: Alt text is beneficial for search engine optimization (SEO). When search engine crawlers index a website, they use alt text to understand and rank the relevance of images and other non-text content, potentially improving the website’s search engine rankings.

  • Ensuring Compliance with Web Accessibility Standards: Providing alt text is a requirement under Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). By adding appropriate alt text, you demonstrate your commitment to accessibility and inclusivity.

Best Practices for Creating Alt Text

  • Be Descriptive and Informative: Alt text should be concise yet descriptive, conveying the essential information about the image’s content, purpose, or function. It should provide enough detail for users to understand the context without being overly verbose.

  • Omit Redundant Information: Avoid repeating information already present in the surrounding text or captions. Alt text should complement the content, not duplicate it.

  • Decorative Images: For purely decorative images that add no significant information to the content, use a brief descriptive phrase like “Decorative image” to notify screen readers that the image is for aesthetic purposes only. Do not use an empty alt text (alt="") as it is considered non-compliant with ADA/WCAG standards.

  • Functional Images: If an image serves as a functional element, such as a button or link, the alt text should convey the action or purpose of the element, not just describe the image itself.

  • Contextual Relevance: Consider the image’s context within the surrounding content. Alt text should be relevant to the overall message or topic being conveyed on the page.

  • Text Within Images: If an image contains text that is important to understanding the content, ensure that the alt text conveys the text’s meaning accurately.

  • Captions and Long Descriptions: For complex images or infographics, consider using captions or providing a link to a more detailed description, known as a long description, to offer additional context.

  • Avoid Keyword Stuffing: While alt text can benefit SEO, avoid keyword stuffing or using irrelevant keywords. Instead, focus on providing valuable and accurate descriptions.

  • Testing with Screen Readers: Test the alt text using popular screen readers, such as NVDA or VoiceOver, to verify that the descriptions are read accurately and provide the intended context.


By adhering to best practices for creating alt text, you can enhance the overall user experience and demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity. Descriptive and informative alt text enables users of assistive technologies to engage with content effectively, while considering the image’s context and purpose ensures relevancy.

Still have questions? Use the Search box in the upper right, or try the full list of FAQs. If you can't find it there, head over to the Zen Cart support forum and ask there in the appropriate subforum. In your post, please include your Zen Cart and PHP versions, and a link to your site.

Is there an error or omission on this page? Please post to General Questions on the support forum. Or, if you'd like to open a pull request, just review the guidelines and get started. You can even PR right here.
Last modified May 13, 2024 by Scott Wilson (8e14df8).