W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > November 2009

Re: Redesign Styles Hypocritical

From: Gérard Talbot <info@gtalbot.org>
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2009 16:12:17 -0500
Message-ID: <4c2587613d5ba0c8054db5d28b558c24.squirrel@cp3.shieldhost.com>
To: "Ian Jacobs" <ij@w3.org>
Cc: "James Hopkins" <james@idreamincode.co.uk>, "Felix Miata" <mrmazda@earthlink.net>, "www-style@w3.org" <www-style@w3.org>, "site-comments@w3.org" <site-comments@w3.org>
If you come across a site which ignores your browser settings, and as a
result is awkward for you to read, I strongly recommend you complain to
the owner/webmaster of the site.
Author: Stephen Poley

Hello James, Ian, Felix

> (...) It is my current understanding that
> the default font size is an area of debate.
> I, too, had understood that the best practice was to leave the default
> font size up to user settings. However, after discussion with a number
> of designers,


Can you identify those designers with whom you had a discussion?

Over here, I can identify designers who explain to not override the user
preferences on font-size and their articles as well:

Accessible Web design and consultancy, Syntactic Home page
Setting up your browser; 1. Text font and size
(...) Web pages often try to override this size for their body text. The
better-designed sites won't do this (...)

Let Users Control Font Size

The 100% Easy-2-Read Standard

The Wrong Size Fonts Or why not to over-ride the reader’s font size

If you do not specify any font size at all (as on the pages you are
reading), text will appear in the default size that was selected by the
Truth & Consequences of web site design: Font size
http://pages.prodigy.net/chris_beall/TC/Font size.html

> and from numerous articles on the topic,

Can you identify those articles? Maybe these articles authors are the ones
who should realize the problems (accessibility, usability) with their

> I realize it is
> not that straightforward.

The solution for me is straightforward. I set a font-size value for
unstyled text in my browser. Then I intentionally, on purpose, set a
minimal font-size value for all the designers and web site authors who, by
ignorance or incompetence, do not understand that there are people who
need bigger font size than fine print, who need more bigger than 11px,
12px and 13px.

Such solution is straightforward to me. It can be applied to a bunch of
media devices and non-media devices. In fact, we resort to such kind of
straightforward solution every single day with communication and
electronic devices (music, tv, radio, phone, etc.)

(Did you know that there are now TV sets sold that allow to set a ceiling
maximum level of acoustic pressure - say, 65dB - so that people are not
annoyed by noisy, screaming TV advertisements?)

With non-relative and non-standard font size, I often encounter overflow
(and unexpected scrollbar, even in secondary windows), overlapping blocks
and overlapping text in webpages often when font size is bigger in a
webpage. It is because those authors do not sufficiently, correctly
understand that *_their_* preferred font size may not be everyone else's
preferred font size.

> Here's a summary of the approach we have taken:
>   * We do set a default font size,

You forgot an importantissimo detail here. You set a default font-size in
pixels, not in a relative font size unit.

Do not specify the font-size in pt, or other absolute length units for
screen stylesheets. They render inconsistently across platforms and can't
be resized by the User Agent (e.g browser).
W3C  Quality Assurance  Tips for Webmasters

So, on top of overriding the default, initial browser (and any UA)
standard font size, it is also a "frozen" one, a rigid one, an unflexible
one for browsers like IE 6, IE 7 and IE 8.

Vincent Flanders and Jakob Nielsen and many others have denounced this for
many years as a bad design practice.

> but it's not as small as what the
> most common font size seems to be.

"Not as small" is a relative perspective. Some people may be really
thinking instead
"it's not as big as what the default, standard browser font size is". Who
is responsible for choosing a screen resolution for their monitor screen?

> This choice will not satisfy all users, but I believe it is a
> reasonable compromise.

It's not a reasonable compromise to me. It is going against all normal,
sensible accessibility recommendation.

I personally had to fight very hard with Microsoft so that Microsoft would
fix several related bugs regarding font-size and resizing text size, in
particular the EM extreme font resizing bug:


I have incontrovertible proof that some accessibility feature in IE
regarding font size will not work as expected and, in fact, turn out to
truncate content, crop content, clip content and make a webpage less
accessible because of a [declarative] too small font-size:


We were able to reproduce the issue. The problem also reproduces with IE
7. The table in the connect site wasn't designed to handle larger fonts.
IE Team

> On the question of color contrast, we've stuck with a grey text for
> now, which I believe is WCAG 2.0 AAA compatible. That choice is purely
> stylistic, and again, I realize it will not satisfy all users.

Will it satisfy the algorithm proposed in
Techniques For Accessibility Evaluation And Repair Tools
Checkpoint 2.2 - Ensure that foreground and background color combinations
provide sufficient contrast when viewed by someone having color deficits
or when viewed on a black and white screen

and discussed in Juicy Studio's Luminosity Colour Contrast Ratio Analyser
which is based on that algorithm to begin with?

> Thanks for sending comments. I welcome the feedback,
>   _ Ian

I do not understand why this font-size: 13px at all, in particular at W3C.
Why take a chance of annoying people with a sub-standard, under
default-standard font size?
Personally I have never met a person saying that font-size on my website
is too big and, if I ever do, then I'll calmly explain to him/her that he
can choose his font-size preference at will and he can choose the optimal
screen resolution for his viewing needs ... just like he can adjust the
volume level of his TV.

Gérard Talbot

>>> How on earth does the W3 reconcile the new styles' "body: font:
>>> 13px..." in
>>> http://www.w3.org/2008/site/css/advanced with best practices as
>>> expressed on
>>> http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/font-size ? How is 13px in the new better
>>> than user
>>> default in the old? If not better, then why changed?
>>> Quoting that URL:
>>> 'Size: respect the users' preferences, avoid small size for content
>>>  * As a base font size for a document, 1em (or 100%) is equivalent to
>>> setting the font size to the user's preference. Use this as a basis
>>> for your
>>> font sizes, and avoid setting a smaller base font size
>>>  * Avoid sizes in em smaller than 1em for text body, except maybe for
>>> copyright statements or other kinds of "fine print."'
>>> How does this hypocrisy happen? Why does the W3 need to be as rude
>>> as most of
>>> the rest of the web? Is it really possible to meet WCAG 2.0 while
>>> setting
>>> font sizes in px? Even if technically allowable, does it meet the
>>> accessibility spirit?
>>> Is there some reason for not maximizing readability? Gray (#333)
>>> text on
>>> white background, though technically meeting the luminosity
>>> threshhold,
>>> really doesn't, since that standard presumes out-of-the-box
>>> settings on a
>>> brand new LCD, not one that is correctly set for an environment
>>> that is not
>>> as bright as a retail store shelf, or a faded older one whose
>>> brightness and
>>> contrast are already maximized to insufficient effect.
>>> --
>>> The husband should fulfill his marital duty to
>>> his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.
>>>          1 Corinthians 7:3 NIV
>>> Team OS/2 ** Reg. Linux User #211409
>>> Felix Miata  ***  http://fm.no-ip.com/
> --
> Ian Jacobs (ij@w3.org)    http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs/
> Tel:                                      +1 718 260 9447
Received on Monday, 30 November 2009 21:13:12 UTC

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