Do You See the Text Resizer?

Most of the time resizing text is understood as the need to increase the text size for the user. People tend to think of this as an issue for older people and in most cases that is true. However, there are young/middle age people who have vision problems also. So a developer will implement a text resizer, similar to the example in the image on the right, and then everyone says “cool beans” the site has a text resizer. That issue is now resolved. I disagree. If you can’t read the text that says “text resizer” or Text Resize image“Increase/Decrease text size” then what good is the text resizer?

I’ve spoken with designers and other developers about this issue and most agree that the users should just use “Ctrl +”(increase the text size), “Ctrl -”(decrease the text size), and “Ctrl 0” (return the text back to its original size). A friend of mine, Trevor Davis even suggested that it would be useful to inform less savvy users about the tools already built in to the browser. I think the functionality should be built in to the default toolbar of all browsers.

The first option, forcing users to learn keystrokes, makes a sort of sense, but it doesn’t necessarily address the more point-n-click usability/functionality of today’s browsing. On an iPad (or other tablet) for example, you just swipe to zoom. Having to learn keyboard shortcuts seems a bit old-fashioned. If you’re going to provide a good experience for all users, no matter their knowledge level, it makes sense to make it easy for them.

How have you addressed this on sites you’ve built? What is your preference?

7 thoughts on “Do You See the Text Resizer?

  1. This is a tough issue, and often times, when you implement accessibility “features” like this you can end of hurting accessibility, as you point out. I think the answer lies in user education. We’ve done that with our accessibility page on Autism NOW. We try to point out that much of what most people need can be accomplished in a browser.

    I think as web developers we must first pay attention to the current web landscape, the goals and content of the site and the user interface of the site. I’m usually against creating features that might be hard to maintain or can easily be overridden by browsers…

  2. Text-resizing controls are standard fare for any newspaper website presumably because these sites all promise a dedicated, prolonged reading experience for a broad audience. Even the cutting edge, oft-admired Boston Globe has text-resize controls.

    Text-size is also an accessibility question. The Association for the Blind website includes text resizing controls…

    http://www.afb.org/

    Maybe the best answer is to look at the analytics & demographics of your users, anticipate reasonable scenarios, seek out evolving standards on similar websites, and talk to the users if you can possibly do so, especially those who are older, less tech-savvy (and less likely to use keyboard shortcuts) or who might have impaired vision.

    • But it is certainly an excellent point that these controls are often very difficult to find on screen. I agree with Maria that standardizing on this makes a lot of sense.

  3. Thanks Maria.

    I also like the text resizer buttons, and that is the reason why I think they appear in the default toolbar for most browsers. In my opinion, that would be the more standard standard.

  4. Adrian – this is a good point. I’m one of those “older” users who often needs to make the text bigger, but have a problem finding the text resizer (if it exists). It would be great if there would be a more standard standard – if you get what I mean. :)

    Personally, I like the text resizer button, with the caveat that it’s prominent and readable.

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