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Content delivery fails for many different reasons. The best graphics and images regularly render as a default picture instead, in either emails or web browsers, and it happens to the best of marketers, without any fault in the content design.

Different desktop email clients handle image downloads differently, and browsers and web clients give customers preferences that can change the way your content displays. This makes ALT text important, but it’s not the primary reason to use it.

ALT text is the text displayed when an image fails to load for any reason. While it could be due to an individual’s preferences, most commonly, it happens based on the software used. Still, this isn’t why ALT text is essential. ALT text’s main design principle was to improve accessibility.

With many partially sighted individuals using electronic communications, ALT text allows screen readers to voice content descriptions. Today, it’s a global best practice but was already part of the HTML 2 implementation. For modern uses, it’s part of the semantic HTML development standards.

For modern uses, it’s part of the semantic HTML development standards.

Source: Pinterest

In an age where almost everyone is, in some way, digitally connected, ALT text improves the experience for many individuals daily.

About 3-4% of individuals in the UK, Canada, and US can’t see well enough to read, and more than 10% of people over 70 are affected.

With email campaigns crossing borders, not including ALT text in webpage design or digital communication may eventually contravene a law. The EU is now working toward implementing the European Accessibility Act, which will make companies responsible for ensuring that accessibility is part of any digital product they provide.

With this in mind, it’s clear that ALT text implementation in digital marketing communication will only increase in importance in the future.

How do you implement ALT text in email campaigns?

There are a few caveats when deciding to include ALT text in your email campaigns. Firstly, ALT text doesn’t render in every email client. What this means is that, although you’ve included it in the content, a screen reader may still be unable to see the text. In this case, your ALT text would make very little difference to a recipient’s accessibility.

ALT text’s length is also limited in different clients or browsers. While this is changing, you have to describe the image in as few words as possible. The general rule is to keep it below 150 characters to ensure that the text remains legible to people who block images, while remaining descriptive enough for those using screen readers.

The WCAG 2.1 Guidelines

The W3C organization updated the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in 2018. These guidelines provide details on what the compliance frameworks will probably look like in the future. Covering everything from mobile accessibility to non-W3C technologies, becoming familiar with the standard should be a priority.

Does it really matter?

In the age where engaging visual designs and striking graphics rule the day, content designers often view accessibility concerns as a lesser priority. Although it may seem like unnecessary overhead, it still provides value to your campaign. Initially designed for accessibility purposes, Google currently uses ALT text descriptions for site rankings as well.

Regardless of the above, using ALT text will ensure every one of your subscribers feels well served and can participate in your campaigns.

What now?

As accessibility is becoming more critical each year, you need to consider the impact it can have on your campaigns. For detailed information about how to improve your accessibility in your campaigns, read this guide to get started. With the ability to include ALT text easily in your next round of content designs, there’s no reason not to start doing so today.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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