Visual Design

CSS and font size

I just wished that people who are designing HTML/CSS content use relative font sizes instead of fixed pixel font sizes.

For example, Macromedia’s new Help content uses relative font sizes (such as x-small or xx-small), instead of fixed point sizes (such as 8-pt or 6-pt). Why is this good? Because if I find the font size too small, I can bump it up easily by Ctrl-scrolling my mouse wheel (you can try it on this page if you’re using Windows(?) Internet Explorer)! However, if the font sizes are fixed in points, this doesn’t work.

Many sites/blogs I visit use fixed point sizes, some text are so tiny (especially if they’re using the <code> tag), that it makes reading difficult (especially at my 1920×1200 laptop screen). Sites such as or use relative font size – makes sense for everyone, including those of us who are not visually-challenged (yet).

11 replies on “CSS and font size”

you saved my life ! πŸ˜‰ the new 2004 help panel was totally unreadable on my screen because of the default tiny font, but the ctrl-mousewheel shortcut works great !
and btw, it works in opera too and doesn’t only change the font size, but the whole page zoom level, nice

thanks, I’m able to read the flash help now πŸ˜‰

Try other browsers Dave, Opera or Mozilla for example, both supports text-zoom, so it doesn’t matter if designers specify fixed font size on their sites, you’ll be able to adjust font size.

I think it was the w3c that dropped the ball here though – fixed pixels are not supposed to ‘zoom’ (that is why they are fixed). NS and Opera were enlightened enough to say to hell with that, but they are the ones breaking the (stupid imo) rule.

I don’t know what small font and mm have in common, but they have always designed like they are still on the original 13″ mac! (er, ok, except the new flash UI ; ). Well, thankfully we can zoom now, though it would be nice if the toc was zoomable too : ). Thanks Dave…

Completely agree with Robin Debreuil words. Plus the main problem is that most developers/designers donΓ―Β½Β΄t know the difference and functionality of relative and absolute sized fonts!

Robin, there’s no *rule* specifying that browsers should *lock* a font in its initially-defined size. As a matter of fact, the CSS specification includes a section which talks about how the browsers should allow the user to change the way the content is viewed. And content magnification is one of the topics.

The inability of changing the font size in IE is one of the things that demonstrate its lack of usability and UI improvements over the past few years. I think it’s just good sense: when it comes to user interfaces, the users should be able to view the content and interface elements the way they want. The way that will make the experience better to them πŸ™‚

I use relative-sized fonts in my blog and some users have been complaining that the font is too small to read. Because IE can’t change the font size of some pages, a few users seem to have completely forgot about the “View -> Font Size” option in IE, which works only with relative-sized fonts. I have a friend who even formatted his HD believing it could get IE to show bigger fonts again (!!!!!). The story say sound funny, but it’s real and show us how much of problem this is.

I’m happy to see from my blog’s statistics that 26% (!) of my visitors are Mozilla/Firebird/Opera users. Good to know that my friends are starting to realize that IE really is a piecie of shit πŸ˜€

IE can ‘act’ like Mozillas when regarding to font sizes : In the IE menubar : Tools >> Internet Options >> Accessibility >> IGNORE Font Sizes Specified on Web Page.

I don’t like that the browser in IE defaults to medium font size. isn’t there a way that i can have it default to small. I am always adjusting this, and am tired. I want it to default to small. please email me if you can suggest

thanks! damn, i sure was surprised to find my dreamweaver help view unreadable… thanks, man for the keyboard shortcut tip (didn’t know that shortcut for resizing web browser fonts works here, too)!

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