1. 4.8.4 Images
        1. 4.8.4.1 Introduction
          1. 4.8.4.1.1 Adaptive images
        2. 4.8.4.2 Attributes common to source and img elements
          1. 4.8.4.2.1 Srcset attributes
          2. 4.8.4.2.2 Sizes attributes
        3. 4.8.4.3 Requirements for providing text to act as an alternative for images
          1. 4.8.4.3.1 General guidelines
          2. 4.8.4.3.2 A link or button containing nothing but the image
          3. 4.8.4.3.3 A phrase or paragraph with an alternative graphical representation: charts, diagrams, graphs, maps, illustrations
          4. 4.8.4.3.4 A short phrase or label with an alternative graphical representation: icons, logos
          5. 4.8.4.3.5 Text that has been rendered to a graphic for typographical effect
          6. 4.8.4.3.6 A graphical representation of some of the surrounding text
          7. 4.8.4.3.7 Ancillary images
          8. 4.8.4.3.8 A purely decorative image that doesn't add any information
          9. 4.8.4.3.9 A group of images that form a single larger picture with no links
          10. 4.8.4.3.10 A group of images that form a single larger picture with links
          11. 4.8.4.3.11 A key part of the content
          12. 4.8.4.3.12 An image not intended for the user
          13. 4.8.4.3.13 An image in an e-mail or private document intended for a specific person who is known to be able to view images

4.8.4 Images

4.8.4.1 Introduction

To embed an image in HTML, when there is only a single image resource, use the img element and its src attribute.

<h2>From today's featured article</h2>
<img src="/uploads/100-marie-lloyd.jpg" alt="" width="100" height="150">
<p><b><a href="/wiki/Marie_Lloyd">Marie Lloyd</a></b> (1870–1922)
was an English <a href="/wiki/Music_hall">music hall</a> singer, ...

However, there are a number of situations for which the author might wish to use multiple image resources that the user agent can choose from:

The above situations are not mutually exclusive. For example, it is reasonable to combine different resources for different device-pixel-ratio with different resources for art direction.

While it is possible to solve these problems using scripting, doing so introduces some other problems:

With this in mind, this specification introduces a number of features to address the above problems in a declarative manner.

Device-pixel-ratio-based selection when the rendered size of the image is fixed

The src and srcset attributes on the img element can be used, using the x descriptor, to provide multiple images that only vary in their size (the smaller image is a scaled-down version of the bigger image).

The x descriptor is not appropriate when the rendered size of the image depends on the viewport width (viewport-based selection), but can be used together with art direction.

<h2>From today's featured article</h2>
<img src="/uploads/100-marie-lloyd.jpg"
     srcset="/uploads/150-marie-lloyd.jpg 1.5x, /uploads/200-marie-lloyd.jpg 2x"
     alt="" width="100" height="150">
<p><b><a href="/wiki/Marie_Lloyd">Marie Lloyd</a></b> (1870–1922)
was an English <a href="/wiki/Music_hall">music hall</a> singer, ...

The user agent can choose any of the given resources depending on the user's screen's pixel density, zoom level, and possibly other factors such as the user's network conditions.

For backwards compatibility with older user agents that don't yet understand the srcset attribute, one of the URLs is specified in the img element's src attribute. This will result in something useful (though perhaps lower-resolution than the user would like) being displayed even in older user agents. For new user agents, the src attribute participates in the resource selection, as if it was specified in srcset with a 1x descriptor.

The image's rendered size is given in the width and height attributes, which allows the user agent to allocate space for the image before it is downloaded.

Viewport-based selection

The srcset and sizes attributes can be used, using the w descriptor, to provide multiple images that only vary in their size (the smaller image is a scaled-down version of the bigger image).

In this example, a banner image takes up the entire viewport width (using appropriate CSS).

<h1><img sizes="100vw" srcset="wolf-400.jpg 400w, wolf-800.jpg 800w, wolf-1600.jpg 1600w"
     src="wolf-400.jpg" alt="The rad wolf"></h1>

The user agent will calculate the effective pixel density of each image from the specified w descriptors and the specified rendered size in the sizes attribute. It can then choose any of the given resources depending on the user's screen's pixel density, zoom level, and possibly other factors such as the user's network conditions.

If the user's screen is 320 CSS pixels wide, this is equivalent to specifying wolf-400.jpg 1.25x, wolf-800.jpg 2.5x, wolf-1600.jpg 5x. On the other hand, if the user's screen is 1200 CSS pixels wide, this is equivalent to specifying wolf-400.jpg 0.33x, wolf-800.jpg 0.67x, wolf-1600.jpg 1.33x. By using the w descriptors and the sizes attribute, the user agent can choose the correct image source to download regardless of how large the user's device is.

For backwards compatibility, one of the URLs is specified in the img element's src attribute. In new user agents, the src attribute is ignored when the srcset attribute uses w descriptors.

In this example, the Web page has three layouts depending on the width of the viewport. The narrow layout has one column of images (the width of each image is about 100%), the middle layout has two columns of images (the width of each image is about 50%), and the widest layout has three columns of images, and some page margin (the width of each image is about 33%). It breaks between these layouts when the viewport is 30em wide and 50em wide, respectively.

<img sizes="(max-width: 30em) 100vw, (max-width: 50em) 50vw, calc(33vw - 100px)"
     srcset="swing-200.jpg 200w, swing-400.jpg 400w, swing-800.jpg 800w, swing-1600.jpg 1600w"
     src="swing-400.jpg" alt="Kettlebell Swing">

The sizes attribute sets up the layout breakpoints at 30em and 50em, and declares the image sizes between these breakpoints to be 100vw, 50vw, or calc(33vw - 100px). These sizes do not necessarily have to match up exactly with the actual image width as specified in the CSS.

The user agent will pick a width from the sizes attribute, using the first item with a <media-condition> (the part in parentheses) that evaluates to true, or using the last item (calc(33vw - 100px)) if they all evaluate to false.

For example, if the viewport width is 29em, then (max-width: 30em) evaluates to true and 100vw is used, so the image size, for the purpose of resource selection, is 29em. If the viewport width is instead 32em, then (max-width: 30em) evaluates to false, but (max-width: 50em) evaluates to true and 50vw is used, so the image size, for the purpose of resource selection, is 16em (half the viewport width). Notice that the slightly wider viewport results in a smaller image because of the different layout.

The user agent can then calculate the effective pixel density and choose an appropriate resource similarly to the previous example.

Art direction-based selection

The picture element and the source element, together with the media attribute, can be used, to provide multiple images that vary the image content (for instance the smaller image might be a cropped version of the bigger image).

<picture>
  <source media="(min-width: 45em)" srcset="large.jpg">
  <source media="(min-width: 32em)" srcset="med.jpg">
  <img src="small.jpg" alt="The wolf runs through the snow.">
</picture>

The user agent will choose the first source element for which the media query in the media attribute matches, and then choose an appropriate URL from its srcset attribute.

The rendered size of the image varies depending on which resource is chosen. To specify dimensions that the user agent can use before having downloaded the image, CSS can be used.

img { width: 300px; height: 300px }
@media (min-width: 32em) { img { width: 500px; height:300px } }
@media (min-width: 45em) { img { width: 700px; height:400px } }

This example combines art direction- and device-pixel-ratio-based selection. A banner that takes half the viewport is provided in two versions, one for wide screens and one for narrow screens.

<h1>
 <picture>
  <source media="(max-width: 500px)" srcset="banner-phone.jpeg, banner-phone-HD.jpeg 2x">
  <img src="banner.jpeg" srcset="banner-HD.jpeg 2x" alt="The Breakfast Combo">
 </picture>
</h1>
Image format-based selection

The type attribute on the source element can be used, to provide multiple images in different formats.

<h2>From today's featured article</h2>
<picture>
 <source srcset="/uploads/100-marie-lloyd.webp" type="image/webp">
 <source srcset="/uploads/100-marie-lloyd.jxr" type="image/vnd.ms-photo">
 <img src="/uploads/100-marie-lloyd.jpg" alt="" width="100" height="150">
</picture>
<p><b><a href="/wiki/Marie_Lloyd">Marie Lloyd</a></b> (1870–1922)
was an English <a href="/wiki/Music_hall">music hall</a> singer, ...

In this example, the user agent will choose the first source that has a type attribute with a supported MIME type. If the user agent supports WebP images, the first source element will be chosen. If not, but the user agent does support JPEG XR images, the second source element will be chosen. If neither of those formats are supported, the img element will be chosen.

4.8.4.1.1 Adaptive images

CSS and media queries can be used to construct graphical page layouts that adapt dynamically to the user's environment, in particular to different viewport dimensions and pixel densities. For content, however, CSS does not help; instead, we have the img element's srcset attribute and the picture element. This section walks through a sample case showing how to use these features.

Consider a situation where on wide screens (wider than 600 CSS pixels) a 300×150 image named a-rectangle.png is to be used, but on smaller screens (600 CSS pixels and less), a smaller 100×100 image called a-square.png is to be used. The markup for this would look like this:

<figure>
 <picture>
  <source srcset="a-square.png" media="(max-width: 600px)">
  <img src="a-rectangle.png" alt="Barney Frank wears a suit and glasses.">
 </picture>
 <figcaption>Barney Frank, 2011</figcaption>
</figure>

For details on what to put in the alt attribute, see the Requirements for providing text to act as an alternative for images section.

The problem with this is that the user agent does not necessarily know what dimensions to use for the image when the image is loading. To avoid the layout having to be reflowed multiple times as the page is loading, CSS and CSS media queries can be used to provide the dimensions:

<style>
 #a { width: 300px; height: 150px; }
 @media (max-width: 600px) { #a { width: 100px; height: 100px; } }
</style>
<figure>
 <picture>
  <source srcset="a-square.png" media="(max-width: 600px)">
  <img src="a-rectangle.png" alt="Barney Frank wears a suit and glasses." id="a">
 </picture>
 <figcaption>Barney Frank, 2011</figcaption>
</figure>

Alternatively, the width and height attributes can be used to provide the width for legacy user agents, using CSS just for the user agents that support picture:

<style media="(max-width: 600px)">
 #a { width: 100px; height: 100px; }
</style>
<figure>
 <picture>
  <source srcset="a-square.png" media="(max-width: 600px)">
  <img src="a-rectangle.png" width="300" height="150"
  alt="Barney Frank wears a suit and glasses." id="a">
 </picture>
 <figcaption>Barney Frank, 2011</figcaption>
</figure>

The img element is used with the src attribute, which gives the URL of the image to use for legacy user agents that do not support the picture element. This leads to a question of which image to provide in the src attribute.

If the author wants the biggest image in legacy user agents, the markup could be as follows:

<picture>
 <source srcset="pear-mobile.jpeg" media="(max-width: 720px)">
 <source srcset="pear-tablet.jpeg" media="(max-width: 1280px)">
 <img src="pear-desktop.jpeg" alt="The pear is juicy.">
</picture>

However, if legacy mobile user agents are more important, one can list all three images in the source elements, overriding the src attribute entirely.

<picture>
 <source srcset="pear-mobile.jpeg" media="(max-width: 720px)">
 <source srcset="pear-tablet.jpeg" media="(max-width: 1280px)">
 <source srcset="pear-desktop.jpeg">
 <img src="pear-mobile.jpeg" alt="The pear is juicy.">
</picture>

Since at this point the src attribute is actually being ignored entirely by picture-supporting user agents, the src attribute can default to any image, including one that is neither the smallest nor biggest:

<picture>
 <source srcset="pear-mobile.jpeg" media="(max-width: 720px)">
 <source srcset="pear-tablet.jpeg" media="(max-width: 1280px)">
 <source srcset="pear-desktop.jpeg">
 <img src="pear-tablet.jpeg" alt="The pear is juicy.">
</picture>

Above the max-width media feature is used, giving the maximum (viewport) dimensions that an image is intended for. It is also possible to use min-width instead.

<picture>
 <source srcset="pear-desktop.jpeg" media="(min-width: 1281px)">
 <source srcset="pear-tablet.jpeg" media="(min-width: 721px)">
 <img src="pear-mobile.jpeg" alt="The pear is juicy.">
</picture>
4.8.4.2 Attributes common to source and img elements
4.8.4.2.1 Srcset attributes

A srcset attribute is an attribute with requirements defined in this section.

If present, its value must consist of one or more image candidate strings, each separated from the next by a U+002C COMMA character (,). If an image candidate string contains no descriptors and no ASCII whitespace after the URL, the following image candidate string, if there is one, must begin with one or more ASCII whitespace.

An image candidate string consists of the following components, in order, with the further restrictions described below this list:

  1. Zero or more ASCII whitespace.

  2. A valid non-empty URL that does not start or end with a U+002C COMMA character (,), referencing a non-interactive, optionally animated, image resource that is neither paged nor scripted.

  3. Zero or more ASCII whitespace.

  4. Zero or one of the following:

  5. Zero or more ASCII whitespace.

There must not be an image candidate string for an element that has the same width descriptor value as another image candidate string's width descriptor value for the same element.

There must not be an image candidate string for an element that has the same pixel density descriptor value as another image candidate string's pixel density descriptor value for the same element. For the purpose of this requirement, an image candidate string with no descriptors is equivalent to an image candidate string with a 1x descriptor.

If an image candidate string for an element has the width descriptor specified, all other image candidate strings for that element must also have the width descriptor specified.

The specified width in an image candidate string's width descriptor must match the intrinsic width in the resource given by the image candidate string's URL, if it has an intrinsic width.

If an element has a srcset attribute present, all image candidate strings for that element must have the width descriptor specified.

4.8.4.2.2 Sizes attributes

A sizes attribute is an attribute with requirements defined in this section.

If present, the value must be a valid source size list.

A valid source size list is a string that matches the following grammar: [CSSVALUES] [MQ]

<source-size-list> = [ <source-size># , ]? <source-size-value>
<source-size> = <media-condition> <source-size-value>
<source-size-value> = <length>

A <source-size-value> must not be negative, and must not use CSS functions other than the 'calc()' function.

The <source-size-value> gives the intended layout width of the image. The author can specify different widths for different environments with <media-condition>s.

Percentages are not allowed in a <source-size-value>, to avoid confusion about what it would be relative to. The 'vw' unit can be used for sizes relative to the viewport width.

4.8.4.3 Requirements for providing text to act as an alternative for images
4.8.4.3.1 General guidelines

Except where otherwise specified, the alt attribute must be specified and its value must not be empty; the value must be an appropriate replacement for the image. The specific requirements for the alt attribute depend on what the image is intended to represent, as described in the following sections.

The most general rule to consider when writing alternative text is the following: the intent is that replacing every image with the text of its alt attribute not change the meaning of the page.

So, in general, alternative text can be written by considering what one would have written had one not been able to include the image.

A corollary to this is that the alt attribute's value should never contain text that could be considered the image's caption, title, or legend. It is supposed to contain replacement text that could be used by users instead of the image; it is not meant to supplement the image. The title attribute can be used for supplemental information.

Another corollary is that the alt attribute's value should not repeat information that is already provided in the prose next to the image.

One way to think of alternative text is to think about how you would read the page containing the image to someone over the phone, without mentioning that there is an image present. Whatever you say instead of the image is typically a good start for writing the alternative text.

When an a element that creates a hyperlink, or a button element, has no textual content but contains one or more images, the alt attributes must contain text that together convey the purpose of the link or button.

In this example, a user is asked to pick their preferred color from a list of three. Each color is given by an image, but for users who have configured their user agent not to display images, the color names are used instead:

<h1>Pick your color</h1>
<ul>
 <li><a href="green.html"><img src="green.jpeg" alt="Green"></a></li>
 <li><a href="blue.html"><img src="blue.jpeg" alt="Blue"></a></li>
 <li><a href="red.html"><img src="red.jpeg" alt="Red"></a></li>
</ul>

In this example, each button has a set of images to indicate the kind of color output desired by the user. The first image is used in each case to give the alternative text.

<button name="rgb"><img src="red" alt="RGB"><img src="green" alt=""><img src="blue" alt=""></button>
<button name="cmyk"><img src="cyan" alt="CMYK"><img src="magenta" alt=""><img src="yellow" alt=""><img src="black" alt=""></button>

Since each image represents one part of the text, it could also be written like this:

<button name="rgb"><img src="red" alt="R"><img src="green" alt="G"><img src="blue" alt="B"></button>
<button name="cmyk"><img src="cyan" alt="C"><img src="magenta" alt="M"><img src="yellow" alt="Y"><img src="black" alt="K"></button>

However, with other alternative text, this might not work, and putting all the alternative text into one image in each case might make more sense:

<button name="rgb"><img src="red" alt="sRGB profile"><img src="green" alt=""><img src="blue" alt=""></button>
<button name="cmyk"><img src="cyan" alt="CMYK profile"><img src="magenta" alt=""><img src="yellow" alt=""><img src="black" alt=""></button>
4.8.4.3.3 A phrase or paragraph with an alternative graphical representation: charts, diagrams, graphs, maps, illustrations

Sometimes something can be more clearly stated in graphical form, for example as a flowchart, a diagram, a graph, or a simple map showing directions. In such cases, an image can be given using the img element, but the lesser textual version must still be given, so that users who are unable to view the image (e.g. because they have a very slow connection, or because they are using a text-only browser, or because they are listening to the page being read out by a hands-free automobile voice Web browser, or simply because they are blind) are still able to understand the message being conveyed.

The text must be given in the alt attribute, and must convey the same message as the image specified in the src attribute.

It is important to realize that the alternative text is a replacement for the image, not a description of the image.

In the following example we have a flowchart in image form, with text in the alt attribute rephrasing the flowchart in prose form:

<p>In the common case, the data handled by the tokenization stage
comes from the network, but it can also come from script.</p>
<p><img src="images/parsing-model-overview.svg" alt="The Network
passes data to the Input Stream Preprocessor, which passes it to the
Tokenizer, which passes it to the Tree Construction stage. From there,
data goes to both the DOM and to Script Execution. Script Execution is
linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(), passes data to the
Tokenizer."></p>

Here's another example, showing a good solution and a bad solution to the problem of including an image in a description.

First, here's the good solution. This sample shows how the alternative text should just be what you would have put in the prose if the image had never existed.

<!-- This is the correct way to do things. -->
<p>
 You are standing in an open field west of a house.
 <img src="house.jpeg" alt="The house is white, with a boarded front door.">
 There is a small mailbox here.
</p>

Second, here's the bad solution. In this incorrect way of doing things, the alternative text is simply a description of the image, instead of a textual replacement for the image. It's bad because when the image isn't shown, the text doesn't flow as well as in the first example.

<!-- This is the wrong way to do things. -->
<p>
 You are standing in an open field west of a house.
 <img src="house.jpeg" alt="A white house, with a boarded front door.">
 There is a small mailbox here.
</p>

Text such as "Photo of white house with boarded door" would be equally bad alternative text (though it could be suitable for the title attribute or in the figcaption element of a figure with this image).

4.8.4.3.4 A short phrase or label with an alternative graphical representation: icons, logos

A document can contain information in iconic form. The icon is intended to help users of visual browsers to recognize features at a glance.

In some cases, the icon is supplemental to a text label conveying the same meaning. In those cases, the alt attribute must be present but must be empty.

Here the icons are next to text that conveys the same meaning, so they have an empty alt attribute:

<nav>
 <p><a href="/help/"><img src="/icons/help.png" alt=""> Help</a></p>
 <p><a href="/configure/"><img src="/icons/configuration.png" alt="">
 Configuration Tools</a></p>
</nav>

In other cases, the icon has no text next to it describing what it means; the icon is supposed to be self-explanatory. In those cases, an equivalent textual label must be given in the alt attribute.

Here, posts on a news site are labeled with an icon indicating their topic.

<body>
 <article>
  <header>
   <h1>Ratatouille wins <i>Best Movie of the Year</i> award</h1>
   <p><img src="movies.png" alt="Movies"></p>
  </header>
  <p>Pixar has won yet another <i>Best Movie of the Year</i> award,
  making this its 8th win in the last 12 years.</p>
 </article>
 <article>
  <header>
   <h1>Latest TWiT episode is online</h1>
   <p><img src="podcasts.png" alt="Podcasts"></p>
  </header>
  <p>The latest TWiT episode has been posted, in which we hear
  several tech news stories as well as learning much more about the
  iPhone. This week, the panelists compare how reflective their
  iPhones' Apple logos are.</p>
 </article>
</body>

Many pages include logos, insignia, flags, or emblems, which stand for a particular entity such as a company, organization, project, band, software package, country, or some such.

If the logo is being used to represent the entity, e.g. as a page heading, the alt attribute must contain the name of the entity being represented by the logo. The alt attribute must not contain text like the word "logo", as it is not the fact that it is a logo that is being conveyed, it's the entity itself.

If the logo is being used next to the name of the entity that it represents, then the logo is supplemental, and its alt attribute must instead be empty.

If the logo is merely used as decorative material (as branding, or, for example, as a side image in an article that mentions the entity to which the logo belongs), then the entry below on purely decorative images applies. If the logo is actually being discussed, then it is being used as a phrase or paragraph (the description of the logo) with an alternative graphical representation (the logo itself), and the first entry above applies.

In the following snippets, all four of the above cases are present. First, we see a logo used to represent a company:

<h1><img src="XYZ.gif" alt="The XYZ company"></h1>

Next, we see a paragraph which uses a logo right next to the company name, and so doesn't have any alternative text:

<article>
 <h2>News</h2>
 <p>We have recently been looking at buying the <img src="alpha.gif"
 alt=""> ΑΒΓ company, a small Greek company
 specializing in our type of product.</p>

In this third snippet, we have a logo being used in an aside, as part of the larger article discussing the acquisition:

 <aside><p><img src="alpha-large.gif" alt=""></p></aside>
 <p>The ΑΒΓ company has had a good quarter, and our
 pie chart studies of their accounts suggest a much bigger blue slice
 than its green and orange slices, which is always a good sign.</p>
</article>

Finally, we have an opinion piece talking about a logo, and the logo is therefore described in detail in the alternative text.

<p>Consider for a moment their logo:</p>

<p><img src="/images/logo" alt="It consists of a green circle with a
green question mark centered inside it."></p>

<p>How unoriginal can you get? I mean, oooooh, a question mark, how
<em>revolutionary</em>, how utterly <em>ground-breaking</em>, I'm
sure everyone will rush to adopt those specifications now! They could
at least have tried for some sort of, I don't know, sequence of
rounded squares with varying shades of green and bold white outlines,
at least that would look good on the cover of a blue book.</p>

This example shows how the alternative text should be written such that if the image isn't available, and the text is used instead, the text flows seamlessly into the surrounding text, as if the image had never been there in the first place.

4.8.4.3.5 Text that has been rendered to a graphic for typographical effect

Sometimes, an image just consists of text, and the purpose of the image is not to highlight the actual typographic effects used to render the text, but just to convey the text itself.

In such cases, the alt attribute must be present but must consist of the same text as written in the image itself.

Consider a graphic containing the text "Earth Day", but with the letters all decorated with flowers and plants. If the text is merely being used as a heading, to spice up the page for graphical users, then the correct alternative text is just the same text "Earth Day", and no mention need be made of the decorations:

<h1><img src="earthdayheading.png" alt="Earth Day"></h1>

An illuminated manuscript might use graphics for some of its images. The alternative text in such a situation is just the character that the image represents.

<p><img src="initials/o.svg" alt="O">nce upon a time and a long long time ago, late at
night, when it was dark, over the hills, through the woods, across a great ocean, in a land far
away, in a small house, on a hill, under a full moon...

When an image is used to represent a character that cannot otherwise be represented in Unicode, for example gaiji, itaiji, or new characters such as novel currency symbols, the alternative text should be a more conventional way of writing the same thing, e.g. using the phonetic hiragana or katakana to give the character's pronunciation.

In this example from 1997, a new-fangled currency symbol that looks like a curly E with two bars in the middle instead of one is represented using an image. The alternative text gives the character's pronunciation.

<p>Only <img src="euro.png" alt="euro ">5.99!

An image should not be used if characters would serve an identical purpose. Only when the text cannot be directly represented using text, e.g., because of decorations or because there is no appropriate character (as in the case of gaiji), would an image be appropriate.

If an author is tempted to use an image because their default system font does not support a given character, then Web Fonts are a better solution than images.

4.8.4.3.6 A graphical representation of some of the surrounding text

In many cases, the image is actually just supplementary, and its presence merely reinforces the surrounding text. In these cases, the alt attribute must be present but its value must be the empty string.

In general, an image falls into this category if removing the image doesn't make the page any less useful, but including the image makes it a lot easier for users of visual browsers to understand the concept.

A flowchart that repeats the previous paragraph in graphical form:

<p>The Network passes data to the Input Stream Preprocessor, which
passes it to the Tokenizer, which passes it to the Tree Construction
stage. From there, data goes to both the DOM and to Script Execution.
Script Execution is linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(),
passes data to the Tokenizer.</p>
<p><img src="images/parsing-model-overview.svg" alt=""></p>

In these cases, it would be wrong to include alternative text that consists of just a caption. If a caption is to be included, then either the title attribute can be used, or the figure and figcaption elements can be used. In the latter case, the image would in fact be a phrase or paragraph with an alternative graphical representation, and would thus require alternative text.

<!-- Using the title="" attribute -->
<p>The Network passes data to the Input Stream Preprocessor, which
passes it to the Tokenizer, which passes it to the Tree Construction
stage. From there, data goes to both the DOM and to Script Execution.
Script Execution is linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(),
passes data to the Tokenizer.</p>
<p><img src="images/parsing-model-overview.svg" alt=""
        title="Flowchart representation of the parsing model."></p>
<!-- Using <figure> and <figcaption> -->
<p>The Network passes data to the Input Stream Preprocessor, which
passes it to the Tokenizer, which passes it to the Tree Construction
stage. From there, data goes to both the DOM and to Script Execution.
Script Execution is linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(),
passes data to the Tokenizer.</p>
<figure>
 <img src="images/parsing-model-overview.svg" alt="The Network leads to
 the Input Stream Preprocessor, which leads to the Tokenizer, which
 leads to the Tree Construction stage. The Tree Construction stage
 leads to two items. The first is Script Execution, which leads via
 document.write() back to the Tokenizer. The second item from which
 Tree Construction leads is the DOM. The DOM is related to the Script
 Execution.">
 <figcaption>Flowchart representation of the parsing model.</figcaption>
</figure>
<!-- This is WRONG. Do not do this. Instead, do what the above examples do. -->
<p>The Network passes data to the Input Stream Preprocessor, which
passes it to the Tokenizer, which passes it to the Tree Construction
stage. From there, data goes to both the DOM and to Script Execution.
Script Execution is linked to the DOM, and, using document.write(),
passes data to the Tokenizer.</p>
<p><img src="images/parsing-model-overview.svg"
        alt="Flowchart representation of the parsing model."></p>
<!-- Never put the image's caption in the alt="" attribute! -->

A graph that repeats the previous paragraph in graphical form:

<p>According to a study covering several billion pages,
about 62% of documents on the Web in 2007 triggered the Quirks
rendering mode of Web browsers, about 30% triggered the Almost
Standards mode, and about 9% triggered the Standards mode.</p>
<p><img src="rendering-mode-pie-chart.png" alt=""></p>
4.8.4.3.7 Ancillary images

Sometimes, an image is not critical to the content, but is nonetheless neither purely decorative nor entirely redundant with the text. In these cases, the alt attribute must be present, and its value should either be the empty string, or a textual representation of the information that the image conveys. If the image has a caption giving the image's title, then the alt attribute's value must not be empty (as that would be quite confusing for non-visual readers).

Consider a news article about a political figure, in which the individual's face was shown in an image that, through a style sheet, is floated to the right. The image is not purely decorative, as it is relevant to the story. The image is not entirely redundant with the story either, as it shows what the politician looks like. Whether any alternative text need be provided is an authoring decision, in part influenced by whether the image colors the interpretation of the prose.

In this first variant, the image is shown without context, and no alternative text is provided:

<p><img src="alexsalmond.jpeg" alt=""> Ahead of today's referendum,
the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, wrote an open letter to all
registered voters. In it, he admitted that all countries make mistakes.</p>

If the picture is just a face, there might be no value in describing it. It's of no interest to the reader whether the individual has red hair or blond hair, whether the individual has white skin or black skin, whether the individual has one eye or two eyes.

However, if the picture is more dynamic, for instance showing the politician as angry, or particularly happy, or devastated, some alternative text would be useful in setting the tone of the article, a tone that might otherwise be missed:

<p><img src="alexsalmond.jpeg" alt="Alex Salmond is sad.">
Ahead of today's referendum, the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond,
wrote an open letter to all registered voters. In it, he admitted that all
countries make mistakes.</p>
<p><img src="alexsalmond.jpeg" alt="Alex Salmond is ecstatic!">
Ahead of today's referendum, the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond,
wrote an open letter to all registered voters. In it, he admitted that all
countries make mistakes.</p>

Whether the individual was "sad" or "ecstatic" makes a difference to how the rest of the paragraph is to be interpreted: is he likely saying that he is resigned to the populace making a bad choice in the upcoming referendum, or is he saying that the election was a mistake but the likely turnout will make it irrelevant? The interpretation varies based on the image.

If the image has a caption, then including alternative text avoids leaving the non-visual user confused as to what the caption refers to.

<p>Ahead of today's referendum, the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond,
wrote an open letter to all registered voters. In it, he admitted that all
countries make mistakes.</p>
<figure>
 <img src="alexsalmond.jpeg"
      alt="A high forehead, cheerful disposition, and dark hair round out Alex Salmond's face.">
 <figcaption> Alex Salmond, SNP. Photo © 2014 PolitiPhoto. </figcaption>
</figure>
4.8.4.3.8 A purely decorative image that doesn't add any information

If an image is decorative but isn't especially page-specific — for example an image that forms part of a site-wide design scheme — the image should be specified in the site's CSS, not in the markup of the document.

However, a decorative image that isn't discussed by the surrounding text but still has some relevance can be included in a page using the img element. Such images are decorative, but still form part of the content. In these cases, the alt attribute must be present but its value must be the empty string.

Examples where the image is purely decorative despite being relevant would include things like a photo of the Black Rock City landscape in a blog post about an event at Burning Man, or an image of a painting inspired by a poem, on a page reciting that poem. The following snippet shows an example of the latter case (only the first verse is included in this snippet):

<h1>The Lady of Shalott</h1>
<p><img src="shalott.jpeg" alt=""></p>
<p>On either side the river lie<br>
Long fields of barley and of rye,<br>
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;<br>
And through the field the road run by<br>
To many-tower'd Camelot;<br>
And up and down the people go,<br>
Gazing where the lilies blow<br>
Round an island there below,<br>
The island of Shalott.</p>

When a picture has been sliced into smaller image files that are then displayed together to form the complete picture again, one of the images must have its alt attribute set as per the relevant rules that would be appropriate for the picture as a whole, and then all the remaining images must have their alt attribute set to the empty string.

In the following example, a picture representing a company logo for XYZ Corp has been split into two pieces, the first containing the letters "XYZ" and the second with the word "Corp". The alternative text ("XYZ Corp") is all in the first image.

<h1><img src="logo1.png" alt="XYZ Corp"><img src="logo2.png" alt=""></h1>

In the following example, a rating is shown as three filled stars and two empty stars. While the alternative text could have been "★★★☆☆", the author has instead decided to more helpfully give the rating in the form "3 out of 5". That is the alternative text of the first image, and the rest have blank alternative text.

<p>Rating: <meter max=5 value=3><img src="1" alt="3 out of 5"
  ><img src="1" alt=""><img src="1" alt=""><img src="0" alt=""
  ><img src="0" alt=""></meter></p>

Generally, image maps should be used instead of slicing an image for links.

However, if an image is indeed sliced and any of the components of the sliced picture are the sole contents of links, then one image per link must have alternative text in its alt attribute representing the purpose of the link.

In the following example, a picture representing the flying spaghetti monster emblem, with each of the left noodly appendages and the right noodly appendages in different images, so that the user can pick the left side or the right side in an adventure.

<h1>The Church</h1>
<p>You come across a flying spaghetti monster. Which side of His
Noodliness do you wish to reach out for?</p>
<p><a href="?go=left" ><img src="fsm-left.png"  alt="Left side. "></a
  ><img src="fsm-middle.png" alt=""
  ><a href="?go=right"><img src="fsm-right.png" alt="Right side."></a></p>
4.8.4.3.11 A key part of the content

In some cases, the image is a critical part of the content. This could be the case, for instance, on a page that is part of a photo gallery. The image is the whole point of the page containing it.

How to provide alternative text for an image that is a key part of the content depends on the image's provenance.

The general case

When it is possible for detailed alternative text to be provided, for example if the image is part of a series of screenshots in a magazine review, or part of a comic strip, or is a photograph in a blog entry about that photograph, text that can serve as a substitute for the image must be given as the contents of the alt attribute.

A screenshot in a gallery of screenshots for a new OS, with some alternative text:

<figure>
 <img src="KDE%20Light%20desktop.png"
      alt="The desktop is blue, with icons along the left hand side in
           two columns, reading System, Home, K-Mail, etc. A window is
           open showing that menus wrap to a second line if they
           cannot fit in the window. The window has a list of icons
           along the top, with an address bar below it, a list of
           icons for tabs along the left edge, a status bar on the
           bottom, and two panes in the middle. The desktop has a bar
           at the bottom of the screen with a few buttons, a pager, a
           list of open applications, and a clock.">
 <figcaption>Screenshot of a KDE desktop.</figcaption>
</figure>

A graph in a financial report:

<img src="sales.gif"
     title="Sales graph"
     alt="From 1998 to 2005, sales increased by the following percentages
     with each year: 624%, 75%, 138%, 40%, 35%, 9%, 21%">

Note that "sales graph" would be inadequate alternative text for a sales graph. Text that would be a good caption is not generally suitable as replacement text.

Images that defy a complete description

In certain cases, the nature of the image might be such that providing thorough alternative text is impractical. For example, the image could be indistinct, or could be a complex fractal, or could be a detailed topographical map.

In these cases, the alt attribute must contain some suitable alternative text, but it may be somewhat brief.

Sometimes there simply is no text that can do justice to an image. For example, there is little that can be said to usefully describe a Rorschach inkblot test. However, a description, even if brief, is still better than nothing:

<figure>
 <img src="/commons/a/a7/Rorschach1.jpg" alt="A shape with left-right
 symmetry with indistinct edges, with a small gap in the center, two
 larger gaps offset slightly from the center, with two similar gaps
 under them. The outline is wider in the top half than the bottom
 half, with the sides extending upwards higher than the center, and
 the center extending below the sides.">
 <figcaption>A black outline of the first of the ten cards
 in the Rorschach inkblot test.</figcaption>
</figure>

Note that the following would be a very bad use of alternative text:

<!-- This example is wrong. Do not copy it. -->
<figure>
 <img src="/commons/a/a7/Rorschach1.jpg" alt="A black outline
 of the first of the ten cards in the Rorschach inkblot test.">
 <figcaption>A black outline of the first of the ten cards
 in the Rorschach inkblot test.</figcaption>
</figure>

Including the caption in the alternative text like this isn't useful because it effectively duplicates the caption for users who don't have images, taunting them twice yet not helping them any more than if they had only read or heard the caption once.

Another example of an image that defies full description is a fractal, which, by definition, is infinite in detail.

The following example shows one possible way of providing alternative text for the full view of an image of the Mandelbrot set.

<img src="ms1.jpeg" alt="The Mandelbrot set appears as a cardioid with
its cusp on the real axis in the positive direction, with a smaller
bulb aligned along the same center line, touching it in the negative
direction, and with these two shapes being surrounded by smaller bulbs
of various sizes.">

Similarly, a photograph of a person's face, for example in a biography, can be considered quite relevant and key to the content, but it can be hard to fully substitute text for:

<section class="bio">
 <h1>A Biography of Isaac Asimov</h1>
 <p>Born <b>Isaak Yudovich Ozimov</b> in 1920, Isaac was a prolific author.</p>
 <p><img src="headpics/asimov.jpeg" alt="Isaac Asimov had dark hair, a tall forehead, and wore glasses.
 Later in life, he wore long white sideburns.">
 <p>Asimov was born in Russia, and moved to the US when he was three years old.</p>
 <p>...
</section>

In such cases it is unnecessary (and indeed discouraged) to include a reference to the presence of the image itself in the alternative text, since such text would be redundant with the browser itself reporting the presence of the image. For example, if the alternative text was "A photo of Isaac Asimov", then a conforming user agent might read that out as "(Image) A photo of Isaac Asimov" rather than the more useful "(Image) Isaac Asimov had dark hair, a tall forehead, and wore glasses...".

Images whose contents are not known

In some unfortunate cases, there might be no alternative text available at all, either because the image is obtained in some automated fashion without any associated alternative text (e.g. a Webcam), or because the page is being generated by a script using user-provided images where the user did not provide suitable or usable alternative text (e.g. photograph sharing sites), or because the author does not themself know what the images represent (e.g. a blind photographer sharing an image on their blog).

In such cases, the alt attribute may be omitted, but one of the following conditions must be met as well:

Such cases are to be kept to an absolute minimum. If there is even the slightest possibility of the author having the ability to provide real alternative text, then it would not be acceptable to omit the alt attribute.

A photo on a photo-sharing site, if the site received the image with no metadata other than the caption, could be marked up as follows:

<figure>
 <img src="1100670787_6a7c664aef.jpg">
 <figcaption>Bubbles traveled everywhere with us.</figcaption>
</figure>

It would be better, however, if a detailed description of the important parts of the image obtained from the user and included on the page.

A blind user's blog in which a photo taken by the user is shown. Initially, the user might not have any idea what the photo they took shows:

<article>
 <h1>I took a photo</h1>
 <p>I went out today and took a photo!</p>
 <figure>
  <img src="photo2.jpeg">
  <figcaption>A photograph taken blindly from my front porch.</figcaption>
 </figure>
</article>

Eventually though, the user might obtain a description of the image from their friends and could then include alternative text:

<article>
 <h1>I took a photo</h1>
 <p>I went out today and took a photo!</p>
 <figure>
  <img src="photo2.jpeg" alt="The photograph shows my squirrel
  feeder hanging from the edge of my roof. It is half full, but there
  are no squirrels around. In the background, out-of-focus trees fill the
  shot. The feeder is made of wood with a metal grate, and it contains
  peanuts. The edge of the roof is wooden too, and is painted white
  with light blue streaks.">
  <figcaption>A photograph taken blindly from my front porch.</figcaption>
 </figure>
</article>

Sometimes the entire point of the image is that a textual description is not available, and the user is to provide the description. For instance, the point of a CAPTCHA image is to see if the user can literally read the graphic. Here is one way to mark up a CAPTCHA (note the title attribute):

<p><label>What does this image say?
<img src="captcha.cgi?id=8934" title="CAPTCHA">
<input type=text name=captcha></label>
(If you cannot see the image, you can use an <a
href="?audio">audio</a> test instead.)</p>

Another example would be software that displays images and asks for alternative text precisely for the purpose of then writing a page with correct alternative text. Such a page could have a table of images, like this:

<table>
 <thead>
  <tr> <th> Image <th> Description
 <tbody>
  <tr>
   <td> <img src="2421.png" title="Image 640 by 100, filename 'banner.gif'">
   <td> <input name="alt2421">
  <tr>
   <td> <img src="2422.png" title="Image 200 by 480, filename 'ad3.gif'">
   <td> <input name="alt2422">
</table>

Notice that even in this example, as much useful information as possible is still included in the title attribute.

Since some users cannot use images at all (e.g. because they have a very slow connection, or because they are using a text-only browser, or because they are listening to the page being read out by a hands-free automobile voice Web browser, or simply because they are blind), the alt attribute is only allowed to be omitted rather than being provided with replacement text when no alternative text is available and none can be made available, as in the above examples. Lack of effort from the part of the author is not an acceptable reason for omitting the alt attribute.

4.8.4.3.12 An image not intended for the user

Generally authors should avoid using img elements for purposes other than showing images.

If an img element is being used for purposes other than showing an image, e.g. as part of a service to count page views, then the alt attribute must be the empty string.

In such cases, the width and height attributes should both be set to zero.

4.8.4.3.13 An image in an e-mail or private document intended for a specific person who is known to be able to view images

This section does not apply to documents that are publicly accessible, or whose target audience is not necessarily personally known to the author, such as documents on a Web site, e-mails sent to public mailing lists, or software documentation.

When an image is included in a private communication (such as an HTML e-mail) aimed at a specific person who is known to be able to view images, the alt attribute may be omitted. However, even in such cases authors are strongly urged to include alternative text (as appropriate according to the kind of image involved, as described in the above entries), so that the e-mail is still usable should the user use a mail client that does not support images, or should the document be forwarded on to other users whose abilities might not include easily seeing images.