Many companies are familiar with the advantages of using alt text to describe images and objects on their website. They use it routinely to provide a positive and inclusive customer service experience for consumers with disabilities and to improve SEO.
However, if the right people aren't regularly reviewing alt text, just like they'd review the content that is displayed visually, an opportunity is missed to ensure it aligns with the brand's image and message — and to provide a consistent and accurate experience for all.
Is your alt text 'on-brand'?
A brand is more than just a product or service. It manifests itself in the stories and experiences that influence customers to choose you. One of the primary vehicles to promote your brand and showcase how it grows and changes is your website. It’s a stage for providing "on-brand" content that maintains a uniform yet unique customer experience. Brands will choose specific fonts, colors, images, sounds, and words to keep their website on-brand.
On-brand considerations are just as important for alt text. Review your alt text to ensure it provides accurate information that aligns with your brand. For example, if your brand uses a slogan in an image, you’ll want to make sure the alt text wording matches. Similarly, if images contain the description of a product, the alt text should mirror that and be updated as needed.
Your brand may also use language unique to certain products or services. It's important that people who experience that message with a screen reader receive the same language. After all, it isn't the consumer's responsibility to even think about the possibility that there's a difference between what they're reading and what's displayed on-screen.
Confirm that your alt text is also free from mistakes in punctuation and grammar and other inconsistencies that could result in a confusing experience.
Is your alt text up-to-date?
Reviewing alt text regularly is important for catching any information that might be out of date. Even the same products and services might be described differently over time. Brands evolve, and that evolution needs to happen everywhere.
Alt text that provides consumers incorrect information may cause them to miss out on needed services or desired products, turning their attention to other brands that can meet their needs, and may be a compliance risk, too. Up-to-date alt text is crucial for incentivizing consumers will disabilities to stick with your brand and for ensuring people aren't making decisions based on the wrong information. Inaccurate alt text introduces that risk in no small way.
So should brand partners review alt text?
The structure and responsibility around who owns and enforces the company's brand varies broadly from organization to organization.
If your organization has a dedicated team or individual responsible for branding, the best first step might be making them aware of what alt text is, how and when it's used, and how important it is. Often, if brand partners weren't aware of or interested in alt text, they are once they understand that it plays the same role as the on-screen graphic in telling the brand story.
It's an opportunity to influence voice and tone, improve accessibility by creating more-consistent experiences for all, and reduce risk.