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relative font sizing

From: Michelle Podd <mpodd@iqnetcom.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2002 12:48:22 -0500
Message-ID: <003701c1da6e$95d27520$6600a8c6@iqnetcom.local>
To: "WAI \(E-mail\)" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
I have a problem regarding the use of relative font sizes in my website [
www.accessdome.com ]. In my opinion, this is an accessibility issue because
relative sizes are supposed to be used over fixed ones.

The background:
I primarily use tables for layout keeping linearization in mind. For pages
where I absolutely must have columns, I use fairly simple css postioning. I
do it this way because I am not entirely proficient at css - I don't have
confidence that I could make a table-less website. I use style sheets
entirely for the text ( font family, color, size, line-height, link color,

The problem:
The way the different browsers handle the css inheritance rule.
Theoretically, you should be able to apply the style for your main body text
to the <body> tag and all children under this parent are supposed to inherit
these attributes. However, because that isn't the case, we often have to
attach the same attributes to more than one structural tag: for example <p>,
<td> and <ul>

So, it I have a table for margins, and a table inside that to provide a
border (one that shows up in netscape 4), then inside that I might have
paragraphs and lists creating a nested element situation. If each of those
elements has a font-size of 0.9em of it's parent, then the text inside
should be really small. 0.9 of 1, then .09 of 0.9, then 0.9 of something
even smaller and so on. I hope you get the picture. The various browsers and
versions handle this in different ways so the font size is sometimes
inconsistant on any given page.

When I trade this off with how accessible it is, I err on the side of
inconsistant font size on a page as long as it doesn't go below the
equivalent of 10 point text.

The feedback:
Since we launched two weeks ago, we've had a handful of people tell us that
they were experiencing very tiny text. I sent them instructions on how to
increase their default browser size to "medium" or the equivalent and
they've said, yes, that solved the problem. However, I suspect many people
don't bother to tell us, they just leave and never come back.  When you
change your browser's font size on our site, the difference is huge whether
you are going bigger or smaller. It doesn't just get a little smaller, it
gets too small.

Has anyone else experienced this problem? Did you solve it? How?

I'm ready to pull all code relating to font-sizes leaving the default size
to take over. But that isn't what I want. Why? We have alot of content so
space is an issue and I want it to be visually appealing to sighted users
without sacrificing accessibility.

Any comments, advice, similar experiences would be appreciated.

Michelle Podd
Web Designer
IQNetCom Corp
Received on Tuesday, 2 April 2002 12:47:43 UTC

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