Font Size Matters

Rumination on Font Sizes being too damn small.

I’ve been complaining about this for years.

Examples of font sizesI wear glasses. Thick, coke-bottle, I have an astigmatism so bad any time I get a new eye-doctor, they tend to boggle that my eyes are as healthy as they are being as crap as they are. No, I’m not legally blind, but I am wearing glasses any time of the day I want to see.

Amusing anecdote time. I did acting as a kid, and I used to not wear my glasses for it. My mother was always terrified I’d fall off stage not being able to see it, but I actually can make out some things. The color on the edge of the stage was enough, and I also counted my steps. I’m great with walking around at night, no glasses, to go to the bathroom. But the point is if you find pictures of me above the age of three, I’m wearing glasses. Before that I could see ‘enough’ that I didn’t want to wear them, but afterwards, I gave up and only took them off for official pictures. Now I argue “No one will know me without my glasses” (something I proved in High School when I wore contacts and a dress to a fancy party and my boyfriend didn’t recognize me).

So I have bad vision. And for years I would CMD++ to make the WordPress admin readable. It was just too small for me. I’d complain to people, I’d make my own admin skins, and I’d beg UX/UI people to put it on their radar. When MP6 came out, I rushed to install it because the subtle font increase and style change made everything readable for me.

Here’s an example from Pippins Plugins. Now, Pippin’s my friend and co-plugin-reviewer. I love his work. His site is just a wee bit too small for me:

Generally I’d like a +1.5 view for his site, and bless his heart, the whole site scales wonderfully when I do increase the size. But I find his default font size (13px) is just a smidge too small for me, and a 14px is so much easier to read long term. The same thing happens for me on WordPress.org’s support forums

For reasons of this ilk, I use a Chrome add-on called Stylish to force font sizes (and layouts) where applicable.

#subscription_checkbox {
display: none;
}

#pagebody {
font-size: 14px;
}

The first one is to hide that blasted subscription checkbox (which I never want to check), and the second makes the page body size 14. Suddenly it’s all legible for me! And yet, on the occasions where I’ve point out that the font’s a bit small, the masses all tell me “Oh but I can read it fine!” I know as the age of developers creeps up and more and more people end up having less than perfect vision, things will skew up somewhat.

The number of websites with small fonts is Too Damn HighExcept the odds really are they won’t. As we get older, we bring in younger, and the cycle will remain. And this makes me wonder if there will ever be a point at which we have a medium where the folks with great eyes and the ones with poor ones are both happy.

I’ve heard tell that 16 pixels is the best but really the perfect thing is 100% easy to readability. And that’s where I think that we’re still failing our readers.

Font sizes really are still too small for a lot of people, and the WordPress dashboard is certainly not innocent. If it was, I wouldn’t have had to write an mu-plugin that does this:

/* Dashboard */
.postbox .inside,
.stuffbox .inside,
#the-comment-list .comment-item h4,
p, .wp_attachment_details label[for="content"],
#dash-right-now .sub p,
.wp-editor-area {
	font-size: 14px;
}

Yes, that’s what I have to do to make the dashboard readable. And no, I don’t think ’14’ is too large. It scales nicely on my iPad and my iPhone, and my desktop. But I know I won’t win this fight for a long time, so I’m going to take what I can and celebrate than MP6 is making WordPress at least a little easier to read for me.

2 Comments

  1. Can’t you just hit +1 in your browser to fix the problem? I don’t have vision problems, but I was using an insanely high resolution laptop recently (3200×1800 13″ screen), and all websites were teeny tiny. My solution to the teeny tiny website issues was to just hit +1 in Chrome until it became readable and it seemed to work just fine and dandy.

    Also, is the text on my own site at a good size for you? http://ryanhellyer.net/

    • @Ryan Hellyer: Two main issues.

      1) +1 makes the whole site bigger, and not everything scales well. Images mostly, but also headers and the like. You get weird wraparounds.

      2) Responsive can get in the way. When you +1 (vs what I normally do, and set a default minimum font in my browser), some sites will convert you to their mobile/tablet version.

      Your site is fine, eve at a -1 🙂

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