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If you include an image in an answer, you can specify the alt text of the image in brackets. In some posts, the image is an integral part of the answer, in which case the alt text is essential. Examples are "Are there police in the Wizarding World?" (with a poster from the Harry Potter movie shown as evidence) or "Why did Harry name his child after Snape?" (with Twitter posts).

This is all great, but there's a problem. The alt text is not searchable by the search box. (Also, very often, external search engines like Google prefer not to search in the alt text either, probably to avoid certain misuses of text that is often invisible.) Thus, such answers are difficult to search for.

When this is the case, I can work around the search problem by including the transcription or description of the image not only as the alt text, but also as plain text content under the image. I can certainly do this in my posts, but should I also edit other posters' posts this way when it seems useful?

  • That's weird. Last year I did searches on alt text without issue using the SE search box. – user1027 Dec 2 '15 at 15:55
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I don't see why not.

Images should support the answer; they should not be the answer.

In theory, images in answers should be self-documenting; the context around the image should adequately describe what the image contains.

For example, Richard's answer here contains two images, which act as evidence for the claims made around them:

The 1960s Batman series used a modified Burroughs Corporation B205.

Burroughs Corporation B205

[...]

The panel below shows that the BatComputer uses seven Cray T932 "plug-in units" to provide backup processing power.

BATCOMPUTER COMPONENTS

This answer is consequently pretty easy to reach through the search box; searching for "cray" and "burroughs computer" (not just "burroughs"; that mostly turns up A Princess of Mars) quickly gets us where we need to go.

In practice, there's always room for another set of eyes; sometimes we don't get it right. If you can improve an answer by adding text context, I see absolutely no reason to prevent you; I can't imagine a single situation where the above answer is inferior to this (invented) one:

Yes:

Burroughs Corporation B205

BATCOMPUTER COMPONENTS

I would, however, be cautious about adding descriptions in places where some already exists; I'm not sure how you would improve Richard's (actual) answer, above, by further describing his images; to me, an edit along the lines of:

The 1960s Batman series used a modified Burroughs Corporation B205.

Burroughs Corporation B205

The above image depicts Robin operating a Burroughs computer labelled "Navigational Aid Computer"

Would just be noise1. As always, make sure you're actually improving a post when you edit it


1 From a searchability perspective, anyway. There's an accessibility argument too, but accessibility content should be restricted to alt-text anyway.

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