I recently ran a session with some of our content developers covering alternative text, and the difference between alt text and captions. It seemed to be well received, so I thought I’d write it up.
“Text alternatives” is the first guideline of the first principle of WCAG 2.1. It’s literally the first thing to think about – and the reason why is pretty simple: not everyone can see images.
That may be because they have a vision disability. But it could also be because the image has been deleted, renamed or moved. Maybe their network connection is poor. Or their browser doesn’t support the format. Or they have disabled images in their email client because they have a 500MB monthly limit.
Whatever. It happens. Text alternatives are what users rely on when images are not available. Like this one right here:
The alternate text needs to replace the image. So your question becomes very definite:
What text do I need to provide if this image is not available? How might I describe the appearance, purpose, function, or meaning of this image to someone who can’t access it?
As an enterprise agency, our role is to support economic development, and this includes offering support and information to businesses in Scotland. This sometimes results in the misconception that our users are simply ‘businesses’.
But that’s not strictly the case. Even though our services are aimed at businesses, it’s still individual people that read our content, navigate application forms or contact our experts. They could be business owners, CEOs, accountants, finance directors, department heads, or any other individual within an organisation. And, being real people, there are a whole range of different needs and situations we need to consider when writing for them.
The way that we support businesses is changing. As part of these changes, we’re putting a bigger emphasis on ensuring that the companies that we support meet, or are working towards, Fair Work and Net Zero principles.
What are Fair Work and Net Zero?
Fair work is work that offers all individuals an effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect:
Effective voice: employers create a safe environment where dialogue and challenges are dealt with constructively, and where employee views are sought out, listened to and can make a difference
Opportunity: fair opportunity allows people to access and progress in work and employment
Security: people have reasonable security and stability of employment, income and work
Fulfilment: people have access to fulfilling work
Respect: people are treated respectfully, whatever their role and status
Businesses that commit to Fair Work must sign up to these principles:
Appropriate channels for effective voice and employee engagement, such as trade union recognition
Investment in workforce development
Actions to tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace
No inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts
Paying the Real Living Wage (currently £9.50 in Scotland)
We recently launched the new GlobalScot website, and I was scrolling through it when I noticed something odd. On some of the case studies and articles, the formatting was off. There were no spaces between paragraphs or styling on the sub-headers.
I had a chat with my content design colleague and one of our developers. Initially we thought there was a technical issue that was causing the content to display incorrectly, but then we found a few case studies without spacing issues. That’s when we realised it wasn’t a technical issue – it was a training one.
Reading Time: 5minutesWe’ve been experimenting with mood maps to record customers’ emotions while they use the prototypes we test with them. The results are revealing …
Mood maps are pretty simple graphs of emotion over time. You just observe someone interacting with the app or content you are developing and plot how positive or negative their emotions are for the duration of the test.
Reading Time: 2minutesOne of our challenges, in the Digital Content & Channels team, is how we can plan and resource the creation of content on our websites and digital channels more effectively. And we’ve tried a number of different methods, but we haven’t solved the main issue for the content team, which is that of workload and satisfying demand.
So, on Friday we spent some time with David and Martin looking at the flow concept that the Digital First team have been working on. One powerful illustration was that of repairing a motorway – you can either employ one roadwork company who will repair a stretch of motorway at a time, and then move onto the next stretch and so on. During that time there will be an effect on traffic, and everyone will get very irritated because it’s taking so long. OR you can employ several roadworks companies who can each repair a section at the same time. There will still be an effect on traffic but it will be for a much shorter time, and will cost the same amount of money.
Because you’ve achieved your road repair in a shorter time, you’ve then got time to do more repairs, presuming that you’ve got the resource to do it.
If we use the same approach: prioritise our content creation, and put the optimum number of writers onto each task until it’s completed, then we should be able to create more (and better) content in a shorter time frame. We’ll be able to put resources (people!) where they’ll make the most difference, and by doing so achieve better impact – as well as possibly covering more areas.
So we’re going to have a go at it, from the beginning of January. I don’t know if it will work, but in the spirit of Digital First we’ll have a jolly good try.
As well as the YouTube video stream, we used every channel at our disposal – twitter, LikedIn, Google+, our websites – to stimulate the debate.
It was a huge effort for a small team. Three of us – including Erica Goodey, who led on this project -were at the event. I was backup and tech support, though thankfully I was not needed for that. Everything went smoothly. Others back at the office pitched in too, publishing updates live on our sites.
So, roughly half our entire available resource tied up for two days.
And there have been months of planning, preparation and practice leading up to these two days.
In all, we estimate our total effort involved in these two days is 124 hours: equivalent to one person working on nothing else for nearly a month. And we’re not even half-way done yet. Much of our planning is around what we do with the material we’ve gathered now the event itself is past.
Reading Time: < 1minuteSomething struck me on the flight to Belgium this week about the Knowledge Hub we have created on our sites. It’s not a hub (a rubbish word), it’s a library. The Knowledge Hub should be a place where customers constantly surface useful, relevant content.
Scott Monty’s article illustrates what we have in common with the New York Times. SE has access to many years worth of customer insight and business experience. We should be tapping in to this. This can be our core content.
It doesn’t always have to be new, it can be something an investor learned five years ago that is still just as relevant today.
We need to find a better way to surface industry content. Particularly on SDI. The current entry panel to the R&I section is fine, but when an article is closed the relevant industry filter needs to be automatically applied. We can still make it obvious to the customer that this setting can be changed.
Content relationships have to get better. Reading an article should surface information on the company and the supply chain. Location maps, video content, the project visualiser – all of this content has to link in a much more intuitive way. DMS will help.
When a customer searches for an event like MWS they should get a very rich experience.
The NYT report highlights the importance of understanding and exploiting the many different ways an audience finds and accesses content. We’ve done a lot of work towards understanding this, we just need to improve how we do it. I recommend reading the article and the original report.
Reading Time: 5minutesIn November 2007, when I was part of what was then the SE web team, we were asked if we could take on a project.
The objective was to completely re-design and rewrite the SE website. Some of you may remember what it looked like back then. Including an incredible floating woman. Stock photography. It’s why we banned it.
Oh. And it had to be ready by 1 April 2008. SE would have a new remit by then. Would that be OK?