Home Text size vs. Zoom

Text size vs. Zoom

Learning how to speak like a developer can help user interface designers and usability people create better software. One of the common problems is that the language a developer uses has subtle meanings in terms of technical considerations.

As a simple example let's take Internet Explorer. There is a function called "Text Size" with options to allow people to select normal, larger and extra large text. The high level intention is good, to allow people to see and read screens and designs that have small fonts.

Unfortunately this intention gets lost.

  1. The original design intention is formulated around text size rather then general readability of all screen elements.
  2. Because the design intention is around text size the primary mechanism used to accommodate the intention is to internally change the defaults for text sizes.
  3. Unfortunately some sites break when you change the font size so web designers hard-code font sizes using CSS.
  4. Since text sizing requires additional design and testing many sites doesn't take the time to see if their site works in this special mode.
  5. Our poor user at the end of this process trying to read an 8pt font is screwed.

By speaking the developer language and understanding the internals of how HTML is rendered a better approach would be to specify the feature as a uniform Zoom on all elements. This would not only ease the burden on web designers but would also guarantee 'larger text size' functionality that would work across all web-sites.

To get something done in the UI it helps to understand the constraints.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.