Figures - Do you add useful text captions to images and videos?

Last updated by Seth Daily [SSW] 24 days ago.See history

When you add images/videos to websites/applications, it is helpful to add a caption underneath them, describing and including extra information to users.

It's a convenient way of catching users' attention to your content. When people are scanning a newspaper, they often check out the pictures first, then read the accompanying description, and if it sounds interesting, they'll go back and read the article. Users read websites in a similar fashion.

To catch readers' attention, include a useful description - don't just describe what the image is... say what it's used for in the context of the document.

good caption
Figure: Good example - Some nice useful and concise text describing the image

It is especially important that images and captions serve a purpose, as opposed to graphics which are there solely for design.

Tip #1: Use prefixes

Prefix your caption with "Figure: ", "Video: ", or "Code: ".

If it is a good/ok/bad example (see the next tip), then the prefix should be something like: "Figure: Good/Bad/OK example - ", "Video: Good/Bad/OK example - ", or "Code: Good/Bad/OK example - ".

Note: The first word after the dash should be capitalized, and the caption should not include a full stop at the end.

E.g. Figure: Good example - This is a caption

Tip #2: Give bad and good examples

When possible, use "bad" and "good" examples to clearly explain Dos and don'ts.

At SSW we always show the bad example first, then the good example. You will see samples of this in the next tips below.

Tip #3: Bold your captions

{{ IMAGE }} {{ CAPTION }}

Figure: Bad example - Caption not bolded can be mixed up with regular content

{{ IMAGE }} {{ CAPTION }}

Figure: Good example - Caption stands out when bolded

Tip #4: Describe the actions in your captions

Especially for screenshots, it is a good idea to have your figure describe the action the user would take:

{{ IMAGE }} Figure: This is the screen

Figure: Bad example - Vague caption description

{{ IMAGE }} Figure: On the screen, choose the execution method

Figure: Good example - Clear caption description

Tip #5: AI images - include your prompt

If you're sharing an AI generated image, show others how you made it.

{{ IMAGE }}
Figure: An AI image of baseball player sliding

Figure: Bad example - Doesn't educate others about AI images

{{ IMAGE }}
Figure: An AI image of baseball player sliding. Prompt: A realistic image of a baseball player sliding. The uniform is white and the crowd is cheering.

Figure: Good example - Readers understand how you made the image, and they improve their own AI image skills by learning from your caption

Tip #6: Add the titles + length on video captions

When embedding videos, include a caption with the video title + video length in brackets. As per Tip #1, you should also prefix with "Video: " instead of "Figure: ".

E.g. "Video: {{ VIDEO TITLE }} ({{ VIDEO LENGTH}})"

This helps:

  • Giving a brief text summary of the video
  • Getting some extra Google Juice
  • Letting users know what to expect in terms of time required to watch
  • Serving as a reminder in case that video ever gets removed by its owner

Note: The exception is for promotional videos where the caption may undesirably impact the look and feel of your page. If you don't include the video title in the caption, consider adding it above the video as regular content, so it's searchable.

When you have someone's name in your caption, link their name to their profiles (e.g. SSW People).

{{ VIDEO }}
Figure: In this video, Bob talks about Outlook

Figure: Bad example - Using "Figure:" for a video caption + a vague text + no link

{{ VIDEO }} Video: How to search on Outlook by Bob (2 min)

Figure: Good example - A descriptive caption including "Video: " prefix + profile link + video length at the end

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