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BIG On Type

by Keefe Tang

Many of you may wonder what is the deal with the big font size on my website. The font size is really not at all as big as you thought it is. We only think it is big because we are surrounded by website with freakishly small font size.

Take DaringFireball for example, the font size set on this website is 11px, that is extremely difficult to read comfortably without placing your face near your screen. Even it’s level 1 heading is sized at 1.55em, that is 17.05px just about a pixel bigger than the default font size.

It’s Not Big

When talked about 16px font size we immediately say big font or large type. The fact is it is not big or large, it is the default size. Website using font size smaller than 16px are the ones we should be calling small and yet 11px & 12px font size have dominate the market so such a long time it has been perceived as the default size by the viewers. Being presented with the default font size now seem to be huge and odd.

The default font size is not odd, in fact, when you look at it again for a few times it almost seems right. The question then becomes “why isn’t most website using the default font size?”.

To understand it we have to look at the old age. The time where computers are starting to gain public recognition, as a tool that can use at home to simplify our life. A time where the Internet is booming. A time where displays are still relatively expensive and most website are faced with a problem. The displays have low resolution.

Using the default size means that information is hard to display as 800×600 can’t display that many lines of words on the screen so we use a smaller font to get the message across. Using a smaller font size makes sense back then but somehow web designers never kept up with the display changes. We are no longer confined by 800×600, I don’t even have visitors viewing this website with 800×600 resolution. We find so much space in design and there are so many empty spaces on both sides and I don’t think anyone wants to fill them with 12px Helvetica.

It’s Small

Physically 16px is about as big as 12pt in print. That is not at all big, most print material are print with this size. Add to that is that we normally read from a distance much further than we do with print material, the impact is significant.

We’re no stranger to the fact that 95% of web design is typography, what then could be more important than designing your website to be easily read without printing your face onto the screen every time you need to read.

There is no reason at at all to squeeze that much information into the screen, in fact it is recommended by W3C explained to use base font size. Having a font size bigger or equivalent to 16px could also be beneficial to businesses as well.

The problem here is a basic usability and accessibility issue: a good design should look good without requiring the user to enlarge or reduce the text size.

Join Now

Change is hard. Why venture into the unknown when we are comfortable just the way we are?

We people are always resistant to change, a study however have found that happiness can lift the mood of a person’s extended network of friends and that very same support can influence change in someone. People are better able to change when people in their social network are changing as well.

People are more likely to make positive changes in their lives not only when their friends do, but when their friends of friends do, and when their friends of friends of friends do.

All it takes is just to define the font size with font-size:100%;.