Difference Between Image Alt Text Vs. Image Title

Posted: June 29, 2010 in html

Most webmasters don’t see any difference between image alt text and title mostly keeping them the same. A great discussion over at Google Webmaster Groups provides an exhaustive information on the differences between an image Alt attribute and an image title and standard recommendations of how to use them.

Alternate text is not meant to be used as a tool tip, or more specifically, to provide additional information about an image. The title attribute, on the other hand, is meant to provide additional information about an element. That information is displayed as a tooltip by most graphical browsers, though manufacturers are free to render title text in other ways.

The alt attribute

Alt text is meant to be an alternative information source for those people who have chosen to disable images in their browsers and those user agents that are simply unable to “see” the images. It should describe what the image is about and get those visitors interested to see it.

Without an alt text an image will be displayed as an empty icon: In Internet Explorer Alt text also pops up when you hover over an image. Last year Google officially confirmed that it mainly focuses on an alt text when trying to understand what an image is about.

When it comes to the length of alt text, here’s what the WCAG 2.0 says:

The ALT attribute value must be less than 100 characters for English text or the user must confirm that the Alt text is as short as possible.

The title attribute

Image title (and the element name speaks for itself) should provide additional information and follow the rules of the regular title: it should be relevant, short, catchy and concise (a title “offers advisory information about the element for which it is set“). In FireFox and Opera it pops up when you hover over an image:


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