We were chuffed to have been chosen to host a talk on The Power of Product Screenshots in your Help Documentation at the Write the Docs Atlantic conference on September 12. It was a great couple of days learning all things software documentation with the passionate and engaging community that is Write the Docs. Thank you to everyone who took the time to listen to our talk and for all the thoughtful questions throughout.
Q: Do you have any recommendations on writing good ALT text to achieve similar effects to the beneficial effects of imagery? - Chris Meyns
ALT text (sadly, for many of us) is rarely applied to documentation imagery, whether schematics or product screenshots, which is a shame on many fronts. And I might also include the title attribute into this malaise. This is equally unfortunate as there is real SEO value up for grabs at relatively low cost, and depending on the internal search you run, a real ability to increase your SERP quality. You also increase accessibility at the same time, which is not only the right thing to do, but also required by law in many regions. Etc. etc. We all know this, so here are a few, probably obvious, things I personally like to have in mind for Product Screenshots in particular:
- Be straightforward about what this is and say so:
Screenshot of …
- Keep reminding yourself that the ALT text is not the answer to the question, but a description of what one sees in the image.
- Be unafraid to describe UI objects or UX concepts in the screenshots, which allows people to search for what they are looking at on their end.
- Adopt many of the good guidelines you have for your text, such as e.g. avoid jargon; My mom doesn't know what a QR code is, but can easily see a “square-shaped matrix of dark or light dots”.
TLDR (what Alan said in the comments):
I try to write ALT text for images as if I were describing the image to someone.
Alan: I can't remember where I found it, but I try to write ALT text for images as if I were describing the image to someone.
Chris: yes that would be my approach too 🙂
Corinne: I try to describe only the additional information in the image as compared to what's in the text, to avoid overloading the brain/ears of people who use Narrator or such tool
You can see a summary of the talk and find a link to the recording here.
And you can also find a link to the other great questions from the chat below:
- Does the title attribute on images help with SEO?
- When are product screenshots most helpful?
- When to add images in developer-focused documentation?
- Will AI image recognition help with screenshot automation in the future?
- Recommendations for image file formats
- What is the right ratio of images to text?
- Are GIFs better than screenshots with callouts?
- How to automate screenshots that illustrate product capabilities?