Resizable Text Is The Web's Secret Weapon

Web-based UIs have many important differences from UIs that went before. Free distribution, wide availability, and ease of developer access are just a few. However, the feature that I believe to make the biggest difference to the most users is resizable text.

With Ctrl-= to make text larger, and Ctrl-minus to make it smaller, users can easily make any website legible. I find myself using it all the time. I think for accessibility and aging world populations, this is a dramatic improvement over prior accessibility settings. Most operating systems allow you to set a larger (or smaller) text size for the UI. But such settings are hard to find and adjust. Furthermore, it's one size fits all — all UIs share the same setting.

Web-based resizable text, by contrast, allows the user to adapt any website on the fly. A certain page hard to read? Make it bigger. Another page too large? Make it smaller. These sorts of per-site changes would be too much effort to make if it required going to an OS settings page every time, but built into the browser with easy shortcuts makes it trivial.

The other half of this equation is flexible web designs. The rise of the web came about only a little before the rise of the smartphone, so web designers had to contend with a wide range of screen sizes and aspect ratios, from the smallest phone to the largest desktop monitor. Most web sites these days adapt to a wide range of text sizes and layouts, so resizing text rarely renders a site unusable.

All told, easy, instantaneous text resizing is one of the most widely beneficial features of web applications. Whether for the aging world population, or the visually impaired, or simply people trying to read text on a small mobile device, this one feature will help a huge number of people in a way that wasn't possible before.

Last modified on 29 Dec 2023 by AO

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