Part 3. Alternative Text for Images: Buffer Announces Support for Extension

This is my third post about alternative text for Buffer and Hootsuite.

And this time, I have great news to share!

Yesterday, Emily Plummer, engineer at Buffer, tweeted that the Buffer extension now supports alternative text for images.

Hurrah!

She followed up with a tweet that alternative text for images will soon be available in the Buffer Dashboard.

Add Image Descriptions in Buffer

To add alternative text to images using the Buffer extension:

  1. Upload an image or choose from the suggested images
    Buffer interface for adding alternative text to images.
  2. Select the image (it will the expand to full size)
    Buffer interface: select image you want to add.
  3. Add your alternative text (limited to 420 characters).
    Add text to Buffer alternative text message box.
  4. Select save to share your post

The only issue I’m noticing is when images are taller than they are wide.

When that happens, you’ll need to scroll down to reach the alternative text box to enter your text.

If you’re wondering about the history of alternative text for images in Twitter, read on.

Twitter and Alternative Text for Images

Why am I so excited that Buffer announced alternative text for images?

It’s been a long journey.

Lack of support for alternative text has been an ongoing issue for Twitter for years. Users kept requesting the feature, but no one was sure when or if it would be released.

So when Twitter announced alternative text for images in March 2016, users were thrilled.

We could finally add alternative text to images in Twitter apps for iOS and Android.

Support for desktop Twitter followed in May 2016.

But then the questions started. When would third-party Twitter applications add the same feature?

Many of us thought third-party apps would quickly include the alternative text feature.

We were wrong.

Buffer and Hootsuite Plans for Alternative Text

As third-party Twitter applications, both Buffer and Hootsuite had replied for years to customer requests that they weren’t able to support alternative text since Twitter didn’t support it.

Now it was possible.

Eight months after Twitter’s announcement, no third party Twitter application had support for alternative text.

Eight months after Twitter’s announcement, few third-party Twitter applications had support for alternative text. Users were frustrated.

Thanks to Ashley Bishoff for reminding me that Twitterific added support for alternative text in May 2016.

In November 2016, I wrote about the status of alternative text for Buffer and Hootsuite.

Buffer was the only company that responded with plans to include alternative text for images.

Buffer’s transparency received applause from people in the accessibility community.

Buffer Moves Forward on Alternative Text

Beta testing for Buffer’s alternative text for images was announced in early 2017; I quickly volunteered to be a beta tester.

Original plans were for beta testing to begin in spring 2017, but it was delayed a few months.

In summer 2017, beta testing started.

I found it easy to use the alternative text feature on my laptop and Chromebook. I shared my findings and waited to hear when it would be announced.

Fast forward to yesterday, when my friend Brian Proffer tweeted, asking me if I knew what the latest was about Buffer alt-text support for images.

Imagine my delight when I heard that alternative text was live in the Buffer extension!

Woohoo!

And it’s also available now for desktop Buffer.

With Buffer’s support for alternative text, the next question was, what about Hootsuite?

Hootsuite Alternative Text for Images

The short answer is no, as of mid-November 2017, Hootsuite doesn’t have alternative text for images.

And based on my ongoing questions to Hootsuite in the past year, it doesn’t seem to be on their roadmap.

The original request to Hootsuite for alternative text for images in was submitted as a feature request in their customer forum in May 2014.

More than three years ago.

Users could upvote a requested feature for Hootsuite. With close to 100 votes for the feature, it looked promising to me that Hootsuite would consider adding alternative text for images.

When I followed up on the request in November 2016, I received the following response from Hootsuite:

Unfortunately I am still unable to provide you with an ETA of this feature. This something our developers are currently looking into among general improvements of accessibility to Hootsuite.

I hope this helps clarify. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

To which I responded:

Thank you for your response. Which is exactly the response I’ve been hearing for two plus years.

Disappointed. You’re aware your community of users has asked for this feature for over two years?

And I’ve had ~half-dozen tickets opened (and closed by your staff) in past two years about it?

I’ve had a number of conversations with Hootsuite support since then, including a conversation today, after I notified Hootsuite that Buffer had alternative text for images.

Which I translate to, this is not a priority for our development team. Sigh.

Summary

Congrats to Emily Plummer and everyone on the Buffer team who worked on adding the image alternative text feature.

This user thanks you, as I know many other users do.

I’m glad to be using a service from a company that listens to their customers. And acts on customer requests.

Updated November 29, 2017 to include information about Twitterific support for alt text for images.

Photo of author

About the Author

Deborah Edwards-Onoro helps small businesses, consultants, nonprofits, and higher ed with creative and distinctive websites. Deborah shares her expertise with web design, user experience, and accessibility on her blog, social media, and at meetup events. As organizer of Refresh Detroit, West Metro Detroit WordPress, and Metro Detroit WordPress, she encourages members to share their knowledge and experiences. In her free time, you'll find her birding, shooting photos, reading, or watching tennis.
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