Relative font sizes Vs. Browser zoom functionality

I was recently asked a question about whether we can rely solely on the browsers inbuilt zoom functionality instead of using relative fonts in our web design. This is an issue which seems to have two strongly conflicting schools of thought… here was my response, please let me know your views on the subject :


To be honest, I don't think there is a straight answer. However on the whole, I would say that relative font sizes are *still* important in accessible webdesign, particularly as you can never be sure who, or indeed, how the user will access your site.

Most of the modern browsers do have great "zoom" functionality. They use what is called "page zooming" which quite literally zooms in on the entire page (text, imagery, formatting, etc). However, some older browsers (IE6 springs to mind…) only gave the option to "text zoom". This scaled the text size up (or down) while maintaining the layout of the page. Since several old browsers are still used by some users, we should strive to support these older browsers as much as possible.

My opinion is that we should still code webpages using relative text sizes. This really gives the user (and the web designer to some extent) the ability to make their own choice as to whether they increase the size of the text alone (using text scaling) or zooming in on the page using "page zoom".

Relative font sizes can be fiddly to get right, but I usually find it pays off in the end. Some websites can display better if the text has been scaled, rather than zooming. One of the main reasons is that page zooming often results in horizontal scrolling, which I believe to be a usability no-no, particularly as it reduces page scannability. Admittedly, text scaling can make webpages look terrible (if the layout was not designed to be liquid) but it usually maintains the page dimensions and retains normal (vertical) scrolling.


Posted byCharlie M at 03:32 0 comments