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Re: Text resize controls - on the page or only in the browser?

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From: Terence de Giere
Date: Feb 25, 2005 4:12PM


The issue of text-size controls on a web page is complex as Mark
Magennis mentioned. I too have observed users not having a clue as to
how to change font sizes in their browser. This is complicated with the
Internet Explorer browser if the web developer used absolute font sizes
in the page because it is then necessary to go into the the preferences,
select 'accessibility' and then check 'ignore font sizes', before the
text size selections under the view menu will work.

When I looked in the help system for Internet Explorer, after some
uninformative loops searching for 'change font size', I finally came
across a few words on going to the view menu to change the text size,
with no mention of accessibility. My experience with non-technical users
is they rarely even look in the help menus for answers to a problem.
Also I believe that few users with font size problems are going to think
they need to select the 'Accessibility' button, or search the help
system for 'accessibility' unless they have a more serious visual
disability than wearing glasses or age related loss of acuity..

Thus, putting a control on the page seems like a good idea, although I
think a better one is to make the font size larger in the first place.
These controls still do not enlarge tiny text on images. Once most fonts
are made smaller than the usual graphical browser defaults, users tend
to have problems reading pages.

On-page controls can have problems too. The simplest ones use
JavaScript, but according to statistics I use, the number of users with
JavaScript turned off or unavailable seems to have hovered in the range
of about 9 to 10 percent over the past year. So JavaScript on-screen
controls will work only with about 90 percent of users. And it involves
the use of cookies to track the users from page to page to keep the
control on. That doesn't work with users that are particular about
cookies, and turn them off, or selectively accept them..So a server-side
session manager is needed to handle all users, which may not be
available to smaller organizations, businesses, etc., that do not have
good, affordable programming resources available.

There are also problems with page design and the manner in which
browsers render lines of text. I have visited sites where increasing the
font size worked for the content, but the navigation menus links
overlapped when the type was enlarged because the line height did not
change with the type size, thus making the navigation links impossible
to read or select.

The best solution, in my opinion, in addition to using readable font
sizes in web pages themselves, would be for the browser vendors to have
a prominent, clearly labeled control in the browser interface, not
buried in the menus, that overrode any fixed dimension instructions in
the code. Then, also, there is the Opera browser which works like a
screen magnifier, equally enlarging everything on the page. This
whole-page enlargement is wonderful, but can result in a lot of
horizontal scrolling on smaller monitors, which reduces usability.

Terence de Giere