Why So Many Ways to Name an Image?

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa

Mabel… Melissa… Myrtle? Ah yes MONA!

When you add an image to your web site you may have noticed that there are a good number of different boxes you can fill in which all seem to be naming the picture. In this posting I aim to explain why there are so many and what they are all used for.

So, let’s start with something very basic… the file name. If you take a picture with a digital camera or phone, chances are your file will be called something like “DSCN6434.JPG”. Many people choose to rename the files, so our example might be called “Mona Lisa.JPG”. A long time ago your computer would have spat that back at you and told you in it’s own archaic geeky way that filenames must be 8 characters long or less plus a dot and a three letter extension which told the computer what type of file it really is (more on jpg, gif, png in a later article). Now you can add spaces and other characters if you wish and the names can be any length up to about 255 characters.

When you upload a picture to be displayed on the web, it will keep it’s file name, but has some other names too. In WordPress it also has a Title – this is for your convenience so if your file is called?”DSCN6434.JPG” you can title it for easy reference as “Mona Lisa”. Then when you come to use that image you can search for the title instead of having to remember the images number. Images also have another property called “Alt Text”, this one really matters. The Alt Text is used as an alternative to the image, by people with visual impairment who use “Screen Readers” which read out what is on the screen. When such a screen reader encounters an image, it has no way to know what is in the picture unless you tell it. Even more crucially, search companies such as Google and Bing use this text to record what pictures are on your page.?Always fill the Alt Text entry with something that describes what you can see in the image.

Finally, in WordPress you also get a “Description” entry. This is the place where you can put a longer description of the image which screen readers and search companies can choose to use if they want more information about a picture. Filling this in is good practice if a picture is more complex than Mona up above.