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Re: font size in web pages, is there any advantage to offering different sizes by the website, isn't it really the job of the magnification software?


From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Jul 28, 2011 12:39PM

28.07.2011 16:21, Birkir R. Gunnarsson wrote:

> In Iceland all sites that belong to the local Applica CMS (are made
> with the Epplica software, or at least adhere to the associated
> standards, which have some accessibility requirements) offer an area
> where you can choose the size/look of the page. I believe this is
> mostly the font size.
> www.tr.is is an example, the local social security admin website ..
> look for (útlit síðu), which means, "look of page"

I cannot find such a string on the page or in its source code, but there
are some clickable symbols in the upper right corner, namely A+ and A-
with tooltips "Stækka letrið" and "Minnka letrið". I guess they are what
you are referring to.

That's a rather common arrangements: links for increasing and decreasing
font size, often using symbols like that. For some odd reason, those
links let the user select between exactly five font sizes, as many as
Internet Explorer lets the user select. Such a setup is far too coarse,
though of course better than no choice. But the common font size
changing links just duplicate browser's basic tools. Or, more exactly,
the functionality that browsers would have if pages didn't break it.

The background is that on Internet Explorer, the font size changing
command has for a long time being a menu command only, not present in
the usual graphic toolbar (though it can be added there). This implies
that most users don't know about it. Moreover, the command is not
effective on pages that set font size in physical units, such as pixels
or points. Some people say this is a bug, some (like I) say it's the
correct browser behavior and the problem is on the authoring side.

The www.tr.is is no exception - it prevents the font size control in
Internet Explorer (I don't quite see how, but it does) and then creates
its own controls. I think the best we can say is that if you break the
controls in a browser, you can remove some of the problems by providing
your own controls. But the site, somewhat exceptionally, does it wrong.
For some reason, both on Interner Explorer 9 and Firefox 5, increasing
the font size via the controls causes some texts to overlay each other
so badly that they are illegible, and even the controls themselves get
messed up.

> Basically, isn't it redundant to be able to request a larger font from
> the web server, isn't it up to your screen magnifier, or browser
> settings, to make the font as large, or small, as you want it to be.

In a sense yes, but to people with minor eyesight problems may benefit
from simple tools for increasing font size, and some people may prefer
the possibility of decreasing it. The point is that people with serious
problems have had to find a way to deal with them, with a magnifier or
other methods, but people with less serious problems might not even know
about such things. A simple "increase font size" button may help them a
lot - but it should really be part of the browser, so that it is always
useable in a known way, rather than site-specific widgets.

> I realize this may not apply to graphics and pictures, but I also
> doubt that tthe server would provide different size or resolution
> graphics based on the page setting (but may be they do).

The common font size control widgets affect font size only. They are
different from magnifiers. If you increase font size, then, on a
well-behaving page, text becomes larger and the entire page gets
reformatted, within the browser window. This typically means that there
are fewer characters per line and that no horizontal scrolling is needed.

> Are there advantages to giving the user some control over the look of
> the page, or should the web developer leave that entirely to the
> user's Assistive software and browser settings?

There are practical advantages when someone visits a page that has tiny
font size and an "A+" link. The user can then click on it, perhaps
twice, and read more comfortably. It is quite possible that the user
does not know about the browser commands or the browser settings. It is
also quite possible that on Internet Explorer, the browser command just
does not work - unless the user knows how to tell the browser to ignore
font sizes suggested in web pages, and it is rare to know that, and it's
a rather drastic move.

I'm not saying the font size widgets are ideal. Far from that. I would
not recommend them. Instead, I would suggest not setting the basic font
size at all on a web page, which means that the size will be readable to
most people and it will be changeable using browser controls. But this
does not please most web designers, who wish to set a font size smaller
than the common default of 12 points. And if people do that, then adding
font size widgets will help many people (and, inevitably, disturb some

Yucca, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/