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Summarizing the "font-size" issue to make an informed choice

From: Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 20:51:56 -0600
Message-Id: <0D2FF034-2DE0-4F95-A2AB-1228372A60B7@w3.org>
To: w3c help <site-comments@w3.org>
Cc: Felix Miata <mrmazda@earthlink.net>, James Hopkins <james@idreamincode.co.uk>, Gérard Talbot <info@gtalbot.org>, "Patrick H. Lauke" <redux@splintered.co.uk>, Alan Gresley <alan@css-class.com>, Eric Meyer <eric@meyerweb.com>, Sorin Stefan <shorys@gmail.com>
Hello all,

Thank you all for contributing in such detail to the discussion  
(started at the very end of November [1]) about how the new W3C styles  
specify font sizes (and specifically a base font size).

In order to make the most informed decision, I'd like to ask your help  
in summarizing the observations and considerations made on the thread.  
I've taken a first pass below.

Some initial conclusions based on your comments are:

  * I need to fix the CSS to enable resizing in IE. (This might be  
done in several ways.)
  * I need to review other W3C resources (e.g., QA Tips) where there  
is inconsistency with the approach
    we take.

I'd like to make an informed choice by understanding the various  
considerations. Corrections and additions welcome.
Thank you again for your help,

_ Ian

[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/site-comments/2009Nov/0048.html

Regarding using px to set a base font size

    a) It is unnecessary (you can use relative units). However:
       - px settings may give you better cross-browser compatiblity
       - em/percent may give you better resizing capabilities
    b) It may pose usability/accessibility issues (when done in a way
       that does not allwo resizing).
    c) It contradicts W3C's own advice (e.g., a QA tip [1]) not
       to mention the advice of other resources.

       [1] http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/font-size

Regarding specifying a base font size other than "the user's default"

    a) It is common. The consequence is that if a site doesn't (for good
       reasons), the site looks odd.
    b) It is impolite to override preferences explicitly set by users.
    c) Some browsers allow users to set a minimum font size; others  
    d) Users may not know they can adjust font-related settings.

Regarding the user's ability to scale text

    a) Some browsers have issues resizing sizes expressed with certain
       CSS units (notably px).

The difficult choice

If I understand correctly, we can choose between:

  i) Specifying the default font size the way that many other sites do  
(which is smaller than the default
     used by many browsers).

     Pro: consistency across sites
     Con: too small for some users, and disrespectful of some who have  
set preferences

ii) Specifying the default font size to be "the user's default"

     Pro: recognizes user should have ultimate control
     Con: will look too large for many users today

Ian Jacobs (ij@w3.org)    http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs/
Tel:                                      +1 718 260 9447
Received on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 02:52:14 UTC

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