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RE: Font size


From: Leo Smith
Date: Jun 5, 2002 6:22AM

my responses below...

> > With regards to relative font sizes, I would recommend staying away
> > from em units (the WAI recommends using them:
> > http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10-CSS-TECHS/#units)
> There are problems with em units, as well as % units, but all the
> alternatives have drawbacks too. I'd rather accept the risks that
> long-term solutions currently have than accept the problems that
> short-term solutions have now and in the future, unless there is a
> strong difference in risk levels (and there isn't here).
> The usual caveats against em units relate to things like the effects
> of careless use of em units with _nested_ elements and to some old
> browsers. A cautious man would use just <small> and <big> in HTML
> markup, as suggested in the famous
> http://style.cleverchimp.com/font_size/livetext.html
> > IE/PC appears to install with its font size setting to "smaller" or
> > "smallest" in some cases.
> Well, that needs to be fixed by the user if needed. It will surely
> cause problems in normal browsing if the basic font size is too small
> for the user to read, especially if it is so small that...

Well, in _theory_ yes. But, in reality, most users out there do not
know how to and that they can adjust browsers' font size settings.
They simply accept what gets delivered to them. If that happens to
be "smaller" by default, then that is how that setting tends to
> > If you use an em value less than about
> > 0.95em, your copy will be unreadable - -
> ("Copy"? We're not considering the change of font size for copy text,
> i.e. changing the _overall_ font size, are we?)

not sure I understand what you mean. By copy, I mean textual

> Accessibility doesn't mean designing for situations where the user's
> browsing environment has been made unsuitable to the user's needs, in
> a manner that could easily be fixed where the problem lies.

Well, that depends. If a user does not know how to make those
necessary changes, then there is an accessibility issue. In this
case, an individual cannot read the textual content. Theoretically,
yes, it is their responsibility to make the necessary changes to
their browser's settings. I am not sure this theory plays out very
well in the real world.
> > The issue with em sizes and IE/PC seems to be that the
> > "gradiations of change" between smallest, smaller, medium, etc font
> > size settings are very large when em sizes are employed.
> Pardon? How would those named sizes be affected by em sizes, or vice
> versa.

Please load this page into IE/PC and adjust your browser's text
size settings - smallest, smaller, medium

> > Percentage based font sizes do not seem to suffer the same
> > rendering issues.
> Pardon? Isn't 0.95em exactly equivalent to 95%, for good or bad, by
> definition?

By definition, yes, but definitions are not what I am talking about
here. In the case of IE/PC the answer is _no_, when you go down
to smaller or smallest. This is why I bring up the whole issue.
Again, please view in IE/PC:
> > Alternatively, simply do not define font sizes at all.
> That's naturally an option too. And almost always the only sensible
> option for the _overall_ font size.
> > In terms of using pixels, most new releases of major browsers do let
> > you resize pixel based font sizes, IE/PC being the major exception.
> Are you suggesting the use of px units, relying on the resizability in
> major browsers, which seems like a bug to me? No matter how nice it
> would be to be able to override, say, font-size:9px via a browser's
> font size menu, I don't think that's _correct_ behavior. If I can do
> that, then my browser will also resize _my_ px valued settings in my
> user style sheet, and that's unproductive. When I say 9px, I mean nine
> pixels, nothing else.

I am not suggesting anything. I am interested in what works for
accessibility in its _broadest_ sense - that is, availability of
information to the widest possible audience. If you have visual
users who are leaving your site as they cannot read anything, that
is an accessibility concern. The fact that they could have solved
that barrier themselves by changing their browser's text size
setting back to medium is an academic argument. The fact is they
didn't and they left the page having been able to get nothing from it.


Leo Smith
Web Designer/Developer
USM Office of Publications and Marketing
University of Southern Maine

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