New site - font-size issues

Darrien darrien.l at
Fri Oct 7 03:20:27 PDT 2005

On 10/7/05, Wayne Chapeskie <waynec at> wrote:
> The new web site triggered what for me is a pet peeve I
> have with many web site designers.  The style sheet file
> "" contains the following
> lines:
>     body {
>         ...
>       font-size: 69%;
>         ...
>     }
> What this says to the client's web browser is the following:
>     "Do you know the default font and font size that your owner spent
>     so much time choosing, tailoring it to the size of his monitor,
>     display resolution, font selection peculiarities in his operating
>     environment, and taking account the condition of his eyes, and his
>     own preferences?  The size in which he likes to see the bulk of text
>     in his browser windows?  Yes that size.  Don't use it.  Display
>     almost all of the text on this site shrunk by almost 1/3 instead."
> In response to which I have one question:  Why?
> We can see that the author had an idea that this might not be a good idea,
> since there is that "Text Size: Normal / Large" selector up in the
> corner, where "Large" pick up "fixed_large.css" in the style, which
> has an override:
>     body {
>         font-size: 93%;
>     }
> Of course, "Normal / Large" is a misnomer; what the page calls "Normal"
> is actually a shrunken, small size, and "Large" is almost the default
> size.
> Look, "default font size" means exactly that.  The bulk of the text on
> a page should be left in that size, because I, as a web site author
> *cannot* know what each of my readers prefers; there are simply too
> many variables.  It would also be incredibly presumptous of me to
> presume that I know better than my readers what looks best on their
> systems, and to their eyes.  Browser developers and users go to a lot of
> trouble figuring out what size works best as a default.  Respect their
> choices.  Font size changes from the default are properly used to convey
> such visual cues as emphasis (headings in a larger size), or "this is
> less important", through smaller size.  This is basic web design, and
> the fact that a lot of web authors make this mistake doesn't make the
> practice acceptable, or any less annoying to the reader.
> At least the style sheet doesn't use absolute font sizes--that would
> have really annoyed me...

I hear you. Small, fixed, or other forced font sizes have decimated
the internet for me. Not only are they unreadable to me, but they
cause distortion and other artifacts such as text running off of a
background color, odd line-wrapping and other such things.

I've sent emails to various webmasters, but none of them ever bothered
to change anything. I sincerely hope that that won't be the case here.

My question to developers is this: Is the old website going to be
updated and maintained? If so, for how long? If it's not going to be
maintained, then I probably won't be using FreeBSD for very much
longer. This isn't a hissy fit or an ultimatum, it's reality. If I
can't read my OS's documentation without getting eyestrain headaches
or jumping through hoops, then my only choices are to clog up mailing
lists, forums, IRC channels etc. with stupid questions; or try to
guess at how things work with a lot of trial and error.

The latter option isn't fair to me and the former option isn't fair to
everyone else, so the only real choice is to switch to an OS with
documentation I can read.

FreeBSD is the best OS I've ever used, and I would hate to have to
dump it over something so trivial. Please tell me that poor sighted
users aren't going to be discriminated against in this way. Find some
way to make the website accessible to all of your users. Keep the old
one updated, make a "light" or text-only version of the new one,
anything, but please find some way to accommodate all of your users.

Who knows, maybe in a few years when your eyes start to lose their
20/20 acuity, you'll thank yourself for making your website accessible

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