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RE: relative font sizing

From: Mike Scott <mscott2@msfw.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2002 16:53:20 -0600
To: "'Michelle Podd'" <mpodd@iqnetcom.com>, "'WAI \(E-mail\)'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <001401c1da99$2fd58b60$0b00000a@mikes>
One thing to beware of in using "em" units -- IE 3 interprets them as
pixels, making those small fonts REALLY small (that's right .9 em
becomes .9 pixels). Of course, the number of IE 3 users is down to less
than 1% on most reports, but it can be a real surprise when it comes up.
(See http://www.alistapart.com/stories/fear4/ for the whole, sad story).

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Michelle Podd
Sent: Tuesday, April 02, 2002 11:48 AM
To: WAI (E-mail)
Subject: relative font sizing

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 17:53:53 UTC

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