Ability to Adjust Font Sizes on Web Pages

3 Jun 2008 - 7:41pm
6 years ago
17 replies
5190 reads
Don Habas
2008

Hi all.

I used to see more sites that would allow a user to click icons on a web page to adjust font size through the stylesheet. Now I'm not seeing that as much...even AARP got rid of it and their audience is generally older, and they would prefer larger font. Is it best to just let a user adjust the size within their browser if needed?

Thanks.

Don

Comments

4 Jun 2008 - 7:59am
gjhead
2007

Personally I am against having "increase font size" on a website I
design. In this day and age, I would that most people who need to
increase their font sizes in their web browser already know how to do
it. Even more, they probably have increased their font size long
before they got to your web site anyway.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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4 Jun 2008 - 9:11am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Jun 4, 2008, at 5:59 AM, G.Jason Head wrote:

> In this day and age, I would that most people who need to
> increase their font sizes in their web browser already know how to do
> it. Even more, they probably have increased their font size long
> before they got to your web site anyway.

Unlikely. The people who most need to increase font size are people
65+, which is the group least-likely to be skilled enough to have
adjusted settings (which is already a minority of people).

Dan

4 Jun 2008 - 9:20am
SemanticWill
2007

Agreed. Explicit font-size adjustment on screen is best. I had to set it
manually for my parents, and while the percentage of people over 65 becoming
more and more savvy is increasing at an amazing rate - hidden functions like
adjusting text size is something that escapes them (that is - the people
over 60 that I have personally tested on web apps).

-w

On Wed, Jun 4, 2008 at 10:11 AM, Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:

>
> On Jun 4, 2008, at 5:59 AM, G.Jason Head wrote:
>
> In this day and age, I would that most people who need to
>> increase their font sizes in their web browser already know how to do
>> it. Even more, they probably have increased their font size long
>> before they got to your web site anyway.
>>
>
> Unlikely. The people who most need to increase font size are people 65+,
> which is the group least-likely to be skilled enough to have adjusted
> settings (which is already a minority of people).

4 Jun 2008 - 10:00am
erica
2008

I know many think it's better to force people to use the "increase font
size" feature in their browser, however, I know many don't know how to
do so and are afraid to try. Why not provide a button to increase text
size and a link beside it to a page describing how to use the browser
method? That way people can learn to do it anywhere if they like, but
if they forget how or choose not to learn, they still have an easy
option on your site. If nothing else it reminds you to use CSS that
allows for increasing text size using the IE browser.

--

Cheers,
Erica
Technical Communicator, Budding User Experience Designer, Mama of Two Little Boys...
http://designingux.com

4 Jun 2008 - 10:32am
Sarah Kampman
2008

Is the answer different for a website vs. a web-based application?
Bearing in mind the dynamics of how often the site is accessed, by the
same/varied set of users, how much time the users spend on the site,
whether it is accessed from home vs. at work...

Does Salesforce.com or Basecamp play by the same rules as a store or
band's website?

4 Jun 2008 - 10:24am
Adesh Singh
2008

----- Original Message ----
From: G.Jason Head <gjasonhead at gmail.com>

>Personally I am against having "increase font size" on a website I
>design. In this day and age, I would that most people who need to
>increase their font sizes in their web browser already know how to do
>it Even more, they probably have increased their font size long
> before they got to your web site anyway.

Well may be .... but only in personal computer.... what about public / shared computers. I've seen many internet access centers (cyber cafes) where the web browser is protected for any change in the settings. In this case, having a feature for adjusting font size will help those who need it and surely doesn't harm others

Adesh

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4 Jun 2008 - 10:09am
Lee McIvor
2006

I kind of agree.

There are (potential) problems to this approach though.

1.) Users may find your font-size changing "widget" no clearer or easier to use than the browser option (think of the standard + and - icons / links on many sites).
2.) If users never learn the browser option, and you provide alternatives for your site, this still leaves users with a problem on other sites, or looking for widgets on every site they visit.

I believe we need to make ease of use a priority, but if we try to replicate standard browser / OS functions, instead of helping users to find and use those functions, are we really helping?

----- Original Message ----
From: Will Evans <will at semanticfoundry.com>
To: Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com>
Cc: IXDA list <discuss at ixda.org>
Sent: Wednesday, 4 June, 2008 3:20:37 PM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Ability to Adjust Font Sizes on Web Pages

Agreed. Explicit font-size adjustment on screen is best. I had to set it
manually for my parents, and while the percentage of people over 65 becoming
more and more savvy is increasing at an amazing rate - hidden functions like
adjusting text size is something that escapes them (that is - the people
over 60 that I have personally tested on web apps).

-w

On Wed, Jun 4, 2008 at 10:11 AM, Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:

>
> On Jun 4, 2008, at 5:59 AM, G.Jason Head wrote:
>
> In this day and age, I would that most people who need to
>> increase their font sizes in their web browser already know how to do
>> it. Even more, they probably have increased their font size long
>> before they got to your web site anyway.
>>
>
> Unlikely. The people who most need to increase font size are people 65+,
> which is the group least-likely to be skilled enough to have adjusted
> settings (which is already a minority of people).
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4 Jun 2008 - 2:24pm
Jeff Howard
2004

At one time, wasn't Nielsen recommending that designers not specify a
background color for their web pages so that users could set their own
color in the browser? I never really bought that argument either...

More to the point, it seems like the goal should be to design type
that doesn't _need_ to be adjusted.

// jeff

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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4 Jun 2008 - 3:29pm
Adam Connor
2007

I've have a love/hate relationship with text-resize widgets. On the one
hand - the widget plays a role in increasing the accessibility of
content - something I think is very important.

On the other hand, far too many people began to use them because "its a
cool Cool CSS trick" or worse, if they actually did have accessibility
in mind when including it, they used it as a crutch to not better design
the site to be more readable/accessible.

One other note - I've observed Usability studies on sites that included
text resize widgets, and even probed users to see if they understood
what it was/how to use it. In these studies most, if not all, the
participants I observed, that would benefit from the widget's
functionality, had no idea what it was.

-adam connor

4 Jun 2008 - 3:34pm
Adam Connor
2007
4 Jun 2008 - 12:45pm
gjhead
2007

Well may be .... but only in personal computer.... what about public /
shared computers. I've seen many internet access centers (cyber
cafes) where the web browser is protected for any change in the
settings. In this case, having a feature for adjusting font size will
help those who need it and surely doesn't harm others

That's a good point that I didn't think of.

Reading this discussion reminded of of an article on 456 Berea St
that I read a few months back. I think Roger brings up some good
points. Sorry to move you off site to read an article, but I think
it's quite relevant to this discussion:

http://tinyurl.com/2u7rbk

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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4 Jun 2008 - 5:43pm
Anonymous

Who knows why AARP removed their text size widget. Hopefully, they did
some testing and found that their customers had decreased the
resolution of their monitors so they didn't need it anyway. Or,
maybe the people who go to their site are mostly under 65 who are
looking for information for their parents. I don't know. I wouldn't
necessarily expect that adding such a widget would worsen a users
experience, whereas not having such a widget could.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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4 Jun 2008 - 8:57pm
Christopher Jarzabek
2008

To be honest, in nearly two-years of designing and developing Web
sites, I've never thought of using nor been requested to use a
text-resizer widget. I'm unsure if that is a good thing or not, but
personally, I find it astonishing, and perhaps telling, that it has
never come to mind, especially as someone who prides himself on
following Web standard and accessibility guidelines.

Which suddenly reminds me: in the countless articles discussing these
principles, from ALA to WaSP, I've personally never encountered one
discussing or recommending the use of such a resizing scheme. Take
that for what it's worth.

I've read through everyone's comments and am convinced that their
are compelling arguments on both sides. In the interest of taking a
stance, I recommend against the use of a text-resizer widget. I
remain unconvinced that designing them into every site and
instructing users as to their functionality, which is surely not
always obvious, is any easier or wiser than instructing how to use a
browser and/or working with browser developers to make the program's
built-in functionality more apparent and accessible.

A visually accessible site begins with the design (read: good
typography principles and testing the site on multiple platforms,
browsers, screen-resolutions, and users). Then, write HTML and CSS so
that resizing is possible, if such functionality is deemed necessary.
Lastly, follow the suggestion of a previously linked article: provide
instruction to un-savvy users as to how their browser operates.

I think this is still open to discussion, but from my experience,
this is my current opinion.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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5 Jun 2008 - 6:06am
Gary Barber
2008

Dan Saffer wrote:
> On Jun 4, 2008, at 5:59 AM, G.Jason Head wrote:
>
>> In this day and age, I would that most people who need to
>> increase their font sizes in their web browser already know how to do
>> it. Even more, they probably have increased their font size long
>> before they got to your web site anyway.
>
> Unlikely. The people who most need to increase font size are people
> 65+, which is the group least-likely to be skilled enough to have
> adjusted settings (which is already a minority of people).
>
> Dan
>
Agree. But there is always the exception to the rule. This is depend
on the base font size of the site, For example if you launch a site
with font size equivalent of 12px then for some insane reason drop this
down to 9px, you can expect the audience over 40 are going to need to
find out really quickly how to increase the font size. This maybe the
first time they have encountered the problem. With IE 7 they may just
assume the zoom is what they are going have to use, but don't bet on it.

Best thing is a err on the conservative side of font sizing so the core
users don't have to know to change it. Or better show them how. Little
education does help, some people (low number I agree) do read them.

--
Gary Barber
Freelance User Interaction Designer/ Information Architect

Web: radharc.com.au
blog: manwithnoblog.com

5 Jun 2008 - 8:15am
Marilyn Matty
2008

Design for your audience. In the vast majority of cases, the text resize
widget is a distraction that clutters up a page. Nobody uses it, and people
who do need to resize type will do so via the browser; it's not hard to do
so. For the widget to be visible, it would have to be prominently positioned
above the fold, eating up valuable real estate that could be used for
content that's more compelling to visitors.

It's not 1995, and unless your site is visited by people who would need to
resize type, it won't be necessary if the site is well designed. Larger type
is not necessarily more readable type - it's why it's used for headlines.
Like long lines of text - with long form copy, it's generally tiring,
reduces comprehension, etc.

And this is a pet peeve of mine, coming from working for years in
advertising - it's not a good idea to pigeonhole a large population segment.
The AARP is well aware that they've got a large and very diverse group of
members and potential members. And it's unfair to assume that most older
people are resistant to technology and online communications.
Not all 50+ readers need or want to resize text; in fact, few of them do.
And it's not 1995; not all 50+ people are such newbies that they don't know,
or wouldn't want to know, how to resize text in a browser.

Marilyn

On Tue, Jun 3, 2008 at 8:41 PM, Don Habas <dhabas1 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Hi all.
>
> I used to see more sites that would allow a user to click icons on a web
> page to adjust font size through the stylesheet. Now I'm not seeing that
> as much...even AARP got rid of it and their audience is generally older,
> and they would prefer larger font. Is it best to just let a user adjust
> the size within their browser if needed?
>
> Thanks.
>
> Don
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

5 Jun 2008 - 8:55am
Danny Hope
2008

On Wed, Jun 4, 2008 at 1:41 AM, Don Habas <dhabas1 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> I used to see more sites that would allow a user to click icons on a web page to adjust font size through the stylesheet. Now I'm not seeing that as much...even AARP got rid of it and their audience is generally older, and they would prefer larger font. Is it best to just let a user adjust the size within their browser if needed?

My 2 Cents:
1) If an audience need a larger font – design in a larger font, don't
make them modify your design
2) Do over 65s know what 'fonts' are or what a row of 3 'A's means?

--

Regards,
Danny Hope
http://hobointernet.com
+44 (0)845 230 3760

5 Jun 2008 - 12:20pm
Marilyn Matty
2008

Design for your audience. In the vast majority of cases, the text resize
widget is a distraction that clutters up a page. Nobody uses it, and people
who do need to resize type will do so via the browser; it's not hard to do
so. For the widget to be visible, it would have to be prominently positioned
above the fold, eating up valuable real estate that could be used for
content that's more compelling to visitors.

It's not 1995, and unless your site is visited by people who would need to
resize type, it won't be necessary if the site is well designed. Larger type
is not necessarily more readable type - it's why it's used for headlines.
Like long lines of text - with long form copy, it's generally tiring,
reduces comprehension, etc.

And this is a pet peeve of mine, coming from working for years in
advertising - it's not a good idea to pigeonhole a large population segment.
The AARP is well aware that they've got a large and very diverse group of
members and potential members. And it's unfair to assume that most older
people are resistant to technology and online communications.
Not all 50+ readers need or want to resize text; in fact, few of them do.
And it's not 1995; not all 50+ people are such newbies that they don't know,
or wouldn't want to know, how to resize text in a browser.

Marilyn

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