“Control” on the Web
May 18, 2007
Lately, one of my interests has been to improve my skills in the area of typography (started after hearing Cameron Moll’s Essential Web Skills). I have read a couple of books on the subject and come across some great resources on the Web.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard Richard Rutter of Clearleft speak to the subject of Web typography on the Boagworld podcast. Richard has put together some thoughts on webtypography.net. I was poking around today on that site and came across these thoughts related to using ems instead of pixels in defining the size of type on a Web page.
“… the beauty and advantage of the Web as medium is that readers are able to adjust their reading environment to suit their own needs. This is a concept that should be acknowledged & embraced, and built into website designs from the ground up.”
I have to admit, I have been reluctant to embrace using ems instead of pixels. Part of it is that I have not really understood ems. I have been hesitant because I have to relinquish control as a designer. But I think what Richard says here makes good sense. The Web is a medium where readers can adjust their reading environment. This should be recognized and embraced. It is part of the medium.
I had already been thinking about this after picking up Steve Krug’s second edition of Don’t Make Me Think. I was reading about accessibility and he also addressed the issue of resizable type. He talked about the fact that designers fear a compromised design when they hear “accessibility.” I think that has been my fear in using ems and giving up control. It becomes more of an issue when using text in “navigation bars” when increasing text size can break the design. I am motivated to read Dan Cederholm’s chapter about this in Bulletproof Web Design.