This is my fourth post about alternative text for Buffer and Hootsuite, applications that allow you to manage and schedule your social media posts.
I’m happy to share news that Hootsuite now supports alternative text for images in their Composer.
Late October 2018, Nick Martin, global social engagement at Hootsuite, tweeted that Hootsuite now supports alternative text for images, via their Composer (New post) feature.
— Nick Martin (@NickAtHootsuite) October 29, 2018
It’s been almost a year since Buffer announced their support for alternative text for images.
And more than four years since Hootsuite customers, including me, asked to have alternative text (alt text) for images added to their product.
Add Image Descriptions in Hootsuite
To add alt text to images using Hootsuite on the web, here are the steps I used:
- Select New Post
- In Select social network, choose the Twitter account you want to post to
- In the Text field, enter the text for your tweet
- In the Media option, either select Media Library or Drag and drop to add the image to your tweet
- Select Edit image details to add the image alternative text (limited to 420 characters)
- Select Apply to add the alternative text
- Select Post Now or Schedule for later
If you’re wondering about the history of alternative text for images in Twitter, read on.
Twitter and Alternative Text for Images
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts in this series,
It’s been a long journey.
I’m not sure when the first request to add alt text for images was made, but I suspect it was soon after Twitter announced support to add images to tweets in 2011.
Twitter customers kept asking for alternative text for images, but it took several years before it was available.
After hundreds of requests, when Twitter finally announced alt text for images in spring 2016 for iOS and Android apps, Twitter users were ecstatic!
And then users asked, when will alt text be available for the web?
It took a couple months, in May 2016, before alt text for images for Twitter on the web was added.
With Twitter now offering alt text for images, the next question was: How long before third-party Twitter apps would provide alternative text for images?
That’s a longer story.
Third Party Twitter Apps and Alternative Text
Third-party Twitter applications needed to wait until Twitter added image alternative text before they could start work on adding it to their own applications.
Twitterific was one of the first third-party apps to announce alt text support in early 2017.
Buffer announced their alt text support in November 2017 with their extension, later following with web support.
Other third party apps announced their support in 2018:
- Tweetbot in spring 2018 (though I couldn’t find any announcement)
- Tweetdeck in July 2018
Hootsuite is one of the last popular social media apps to add support for alt text for images.
What You Need to Know about Hootsuite’s Alternative Text for Images
Hootsuite only supports alternative text for images via their New Post link, which they internally call Composer.
You’re limited to 420 characters for alt text, same as in Twitter.
There are no plans to add alt text support for the existing compose box, which Hootsuite Support calls the normal or “old compose” box.
As of November 2018, there is no support for alt text in Hootsuite mobile apps.
When I asked for the roadmap for mobile app alt text support, Hootsuite Support replied:
This is something that we could add in the future, however we do not have an ETA at this moment.
Hey, I’m glad Hootsuite finally has support for alt text! But…
It took me a while to figure out how it worked, since I don’t use New Post as my normal workflow creating tweets with Hootsuite.
When I read Hootsuite’s alt text for images instructions, I couldn’t figure what they were referring to when they mentioned Composer.
I’ve used Hootsuite for years, but there was nothing in the Hootsuite web interface labeled Composer.
I use what Hootsuite refers to as the “old” compose box in Hootsuite.
Once Hootsuite Support explained to me Composer meant the New Post link, I was able to add alt text to images without any issues.
Since the wording in their online instructions was so confusing to me, I expected other users would have the same issue I did.
So I asked Hootsuite Support if they would update their instructions, changing Composer to New Post.
Sadly, they ignored my suggestion.
Their instructions still refer to Composer for the New Post link in their interface.
And Hootsuite doesn’t provide any screenshots to help the user figure out what Composer is.
Also, despite my numerous requests, Hootsuite has yet to officially announce alternative text for images on their own blog.
Hootsuite now offers alternative text for images, joining other third-party social media apps in making their product more accessible.
I appreciate their work on adding the alternative text feature, I know it’s something many of my higher education, government, and nonprofit colleagues and clients have waited for.
For the future, I hope they continue their accessibility work and add alt text for images to their mobile apps.
Have you used the alt text feature in Hootsuite? Did you find it easy to use?