[thelist] Default font size IEWin

miinx lists at miinx.com.au
Tue Oct 1 07:18:00 CDT 2002

Rob Schumann wrote:
  > Hi Karen,
  > Thanks for the response and the different angle... I agree, but also
  > disagree to some small extent...

I feel that way with so many things!

  > We now start designing at 1em or 100% and where vistors go to these
  > new sites with factory defaults they come off (first impressions) as
  > being poorly designed.

again I'd disagree that this is what such users think - as they'll be
seeing *all* pages using relative font sizes as being extra large, not
just one.

  > The question is just what proportion of users change their browser
  > settings from the defaults. My experience so far is that few ever do.
  > If that is representative of widespread practice then surely we
  > should be designing with the defaults in mind.

and again I'll disagree here!

There are certain things that your average user will never change from
the default - JS turned on, image blocking, etc.  And there are those
that they probably will - default font size being one of them.  The
difference between them is that one thing will visibly affect their use
of the product, and the other won't;  it's the things we can see that we
worry about.

Seeing everything at some hugely large font size is likely to make the
user - no matter how inexperienced - wonder how they can improve that.
It's no fun browsing the web when you only get 16 words to a screen!  So
whether they start looking through the menus, check the Help system or
call a technologically-minded friend, they will almost certainly try and
make a change that will improve their comfort-level here.

[Yes, blanket statements I know.  But even my Mum - still struggling
with basic concepts ("why is the screen black?  Oh... which button?")
after a year online - always asks me when she hits something she thinks
looks funny.  ("Why is that image not moving when I scroll?"  "Why do
all these windows keep opening?" "Why is it so hard to read?" etc)]

Another factor that lends weight to this argument is that IE makes it
relatively easy to make this change - the default font setting is not
hidden away in some obscure menu, it's there in the second menu (um,
could be third, haven't used it for a while).  Give a user a choice, and
they will relish it.

  > It is clear though that whichever route is taken there isn't one that
  > will suit 100% of the cases... Or should we lobby for sensible
  > browser defaults... ;O)

My main thought, as with any web-related issues, is to go with your
audience.  And unless you're targetting senior-cit's in the "Web101"
class at the local community centre, or Mad Max the mechanic who keeps
getting grease in his keyboard, then I think you can safely assume that
most users will try & make some sort of a change when faced with
something "a blind bat could read from 3 metres without the aid reading
glasses..."  (great quote, love it ;)

Miinx Design & Development
e :: karen at miinx.com.au
p :: 0413.880.302
w :: www.miinx.com.au

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