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I recently approved a suggested edit that added an image description in the link for an inserted image; stating that it was for accessibility. I have never thought of this, and have not been adding such descriptions to my inserted images.

What are users who do not use a typical computer monitor seeing when I just leave the generic “enter image description here”? Should I make sure to add appropriate descriptions in the markdown when I insert an image?

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When screen reader reads the page to visually impaired person, she will hear something like:

Image. Described as "enter image description here".

Details may vary, some readers can (could) be configured to also tell the size and is it color or bw images, but that's merely a bonus and not always in use as it wastes time (hearing is slower than seeing).

So yes, by all means you should add descriptions. If you don't have patience to describe images properly, you should write1 something like

Illustration of the issue as described in text above

so they know they aren't missing any crucial information.

Good practices for visually impaired people also include:

  • Describe problem well enough your Q or A makes sense even without the image
  • Don't rely on the color only
  • Don't rely on minute details only
  • Make symbols really distinct (° and * are bad pair, O and + are good pair)

That way people that have visual issues but are not completely blind have a much higher chance to use site as a fully sighted person would.


1 Some manuals advocate leaving description blank if image is totally not needed, but in my experience large images without description raised some questions from the test users from the Polish Association of the Blind.


Source: Years ago I was one of the people responsible for making websites owned by the city hall of my capital city accessible.

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Image descriptions help visually impaired users engage with your content

That's a good thing to do on its own merits and is well covered in Molot's answer. The effort it takes won't cost you much and could help someone else.

If that's not motivation enough, adding them could boost your metrics

Visually impaired people aren't the only 'people' that will notice you've added image descriptions - Google (and other internet search engines) will too.

Presuming that you've included an image that's pretty relevant to the question you're asking / answering it's pretty likely that any good description of the image might also include repetition of some of the keys words or phrases that relate to your question / answer.

Repetition of relevant key words / phrases is one of the key factors that search engines take into account when ranking their results. Repeating 'key words' in the page titles, slug, body copy and image descriptions are all ways to boost a page's chances of appearing higher up the list of relevant search results. The practice of deliberately trying to move a piece of content up a search engine's results list is called "Search Engine Optimization" or SEO and is a big deal in online marketing.

Bringing that back to the question in hand, there's a chance that adding image descriptions to your posts could, in the long-term, boost traffic to that page, getting more eyes on your post:

  • Question asker's get badges based on numbers of page views.
  • If new viewers become new users that's good for the whole community.
  • If new users like your post and up-vote then that's good for your rep.

So, definitely add image descriptions for benefit of visually impaired users, but, if you're lucky, you may directly benefit from doing so too.

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