Archives » November 10th, 2004

November 10, 2004

ALT Text Blues

Okay, it’s time for another rant, one that will only reach ten people, none of which are the ones that really need to hear it. But so be it.

What really cheeses me off are people who learned web design back in 1995 and think that everything they know is absolutely right and there’s no reason to bring their skills up to, you know, the 1999 level. Normally it doesn’t bother me too much since a table-based site mostly looks the same as a CSS site, and even tag soup gets rendered into something nice in Firefox. But there’s one relic from the past that Firefox chose (rightly) not to support, but the problems is that all these 1995 types still use it and it really screws me up when they do. And that’s the fact that alt text used to appear as a little popup when you’d hover over an image. That’s not the right use for alt text; alt text is supposed to be for when the image doesn’t show at all. title text is what’s supposed to pop up when you hover. But there apparently are only a couple hundred people in the world that know that, and none of them make the sites I read. So when I go to someplace like James Lileks’ site, or to Al Lutz’ Mice Age, and I know that there are supposed to be tooltips with witty little sayings on each of the images, but I can’t see them because the author learned HTML in 1995, that really gets in my grill. I’ve even written to Al Lutz on this topic, twice, even when other people wrote in to say they couldn’t see the tooltips in Firefox, and he was looking for solutions. And of course I got no response either time.

So now my browsing is crippled because these dunderheads won’t join the rest of the world and realize that web design has advanced in the last ten years. And it’s not like there’s something new coming out every year, and it’s just too much for anybody to keep track of. XHTML came out in 1999. That’s five years now. There is no reason at all for anybody who is making web pages today not to be using XHTML. Or CSS, which has been around for eight years. But that’s another rant for another day.

So, what I finally had to do is break down and install the extension to Firefox that puts alt text into tooltips. I feel like I’m breaking Firefox a little by doing that, but until the rest of the world catches on to the right way to do things, I guess I’m stuck with it. It should only take twenty or thirty years.