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On our product pages, we have a main image of the product as well as several "zoomed in" images that highlight different parts of the product.

I am assuming that using the exact same alt text for the zoomed in images is not recommended?

Is there any standard precedent for this situation?

4

There can be more than one path here, and it depends on a couple of factors:

  1. Do you want all the images to be competitive in image search, or are you okay with only your main product image being competitive?

  2. Are those zoomed-in images crucial for individuals with accessibility challenges, or is it okay if screen readers and other such technologies skip over them altogether?

One path you can take is to give your main product image strong alt text, and the rest of your related images minimal alt text with slight variations:

Main image - "Widget by Company, the thing that does some things."
Zoomed-in image #1 - "Widget, view from the front."
Zoomed-in image #2 - "Widget, another view."

Another path is to give your main image a great alt tag, and let the others have duplicate alt tags. The reason this is not recommended, as you mentioned, is that it may not be great user experience for screen readers, and might devalue those secondary images for search, but technically you won't be penalized, so it's okay to do this if it fits your particular case.

If those supplemental images are not crucial at all, you can leave your alt tags blank, as if those images were design elements. (Web designers leave images like lines, geometric shapes, and background gradients without alt text, which makes them virtually invisible to screen readers and mostly ignored by search engines.)

Here's a related discussion on Moz's boards.

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Alt text should be written as if it were describing the significant parts of the image to a blind person.

So yes, three images can all have the same alt text, but only if all three images are identical.

If the images aren't identical, the alt texts should include a description of their differences.


Someone using the thee example alt texts (from another answer):

  • Main image - "Widget by Company, the thing that does some things."
  • Zoomed-in image #1 - "Widget, view from the front."
  • Zoomed-in image #2 - "Widget, another view."

would think:

  • Main image: "So that's what the widget doesn't look like!"
  • #1: "So that's what it doesn't look like from the front!"
  • #2: "So That's what it doesn't look like from somewhere other than the front!"

These alt texts are very inadequate.

  • Zooming in on different parts rather implies there's at least one feature being made obvious. While it's overstating things to say images must be identical to use a common text, if there is specific information being provided by an image, it's time to wax descriptive, for certain. – The Nate Oct 30 at 10:45
  • I rarely feel like I have to do this, but I think your complaint about my sample alt text (which was included to illustrate a point) doesn't make sense. It's fine if that's not the path you would take. But how is someone (esp an engine) reading a description of an image going to think, "this description is lying, and I must negate what it says"? If you're still convinced that my response somehow ties into marketing psychology, I suggest you offer a different/better sample alternative that illustrates the use case for the original question. – Henry Visotski Oct 30 at 14:34
  • @HenryVisotski, as I said, the purpose of alt text is to enable blind people to get the relevant information that the image was intended to provide (or for everyone, if the image is unavailable). If you were reading the page to someone on the phone, what would you say to them when you came to the image? If you would simply skip it as not important, or the image is simply decorative, alt="" is best. But if there is something significant shown in the image, the alt tag should say what you would be saying on the phone. – Ray Butterworth Oct 30 at 14:55

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