Is my font too small?

A reader foams at the mouth:

You see, I set up Mozilla Firefox so that the default font is Verdana 18 point, because that’s a size I am comfortable with, being a quintedecarian. Then all these WWW graphic designers say, “The default font for most of the browsers in the world (ie. Internet Explorer) is too large and clunky, rather like the sort of thing old people like to read, so I’m going to set my body style to 80% of that (or whatever to make it small and elegant and youthful.” Thanks a lot, guys. As a result I look at your blog, along with many other sites, with the Page Style suppressed.

So… here is your chance to vote (in the comments section I suppose). Is the font too small? Should it be set bigger? Should it just leave you with whatever your browser defaults to? I’m not quite sure how the site/browser interaction works, anyway.

Incidentally, I was poking through the stats yesterday, and the most popular browser at this site is Firefox.

[Top tips (i.e. ones not involving me having to change my .css) so far:

  1. “Control =” or “Control +” (Control-Shift-=) to increase font size
  2. (Joe Shelby / Razib)

  3. The Read Easily firefox plugin
  4. Read via RSS :-)



  1. #1 razib

    your font is small, but you can change it easy enough in firefox using increase or decrease. leave it as is. the font-size is defined at 11px btw in the seed CSS. you can change that by adding your own CSS underneath the main one (i’ve done that, check my source code).

  2. #2 Geoff

    I’m 58 and can read it OK’ish doesnt really matter as I access your posts through RSS – if only I could comment from my reader too.

  3. #3 Thomas Winwood

    The problem (upon scrutinising your stylesheet) is that if one uses the ideal solution and sets font size in pixels, IE6/Win disables font scaling completely for that site. The usual solution is to set body { font-size: 76%; } in your stylesheet and then use ems (for which 1em equates to 10px) to size text for all elements under that.

  4. #4 majkia

    The Firefox extension Read Easily lets you put font up and font down keys on the main toolbar.

    I’m an old fogey too, so use that with small print websites.

    [Read Easily is nice. However it gets rid of all the formatting, which is a bit disconcerting at first, and all the sidebars go funny too. But, it sorts out the font nicely -W]

  5. #5 Joe Shelby

    both mainstream browsers (IE, Mozilla/Firefox) support the key combination “Control =” or “Control +” (Control-Shift-=) which will instantly increase the font size without shifting graphics.

    now, granted, do it too many times and the search text box (which by common standards should be on the right, not left) will expand into the main body, but one or two should be sufficient.

    [Aha, thats even better – thanks! -W]

  6. #6 Anonymous

    Too small imo.

    I’m moderately computer literate, but I’ve not got into ‘rss’, so that’s out for me as well (and most I guess?). Can’t get the key combo to work either…

    Might as well make life easy for readers, I can’t see much point in making it difficult. So my vote would be for a bit larger.

  7. #7 coturnix

    Roll your mouse scroll button back and forth while holding down Control until the size is just right for your eyes.

  8. #8 J-Dog

    WAY TOO SMALL – I am 50+, and am really having trouble reading the SB fonts. I use MSN Explorer, and unfortunately the tips people have mentioned do not work, and the “larger text” selection unde the View Tab, does not work for SB. It is extremely annoying.

  9. #9 Dave Munger

    They’re fine for me — but I might be a little biased…

  10. #10 PZ Myers

    I wish I knew why anyone uses Explorer. It’s the worst browser on the planet, and life would be so much easier if everyone would ditch that piece of junk and switch to Firefox.

  11. #11 rehana

    Firefox lets you set a minimum font size, so you don’t have to foool around with ctrl-+ every time you come across something that’s too small. Where it is depends what version of the browser you’re using, but it’s in the same place as fonts in general. For me it’s Content -> Fonts & Colors -> Advanced.

  12. #12 Thomas Winwood

    Joe Shelby: IE6/Win won’t do the font-sizing tango on this site because the font size is set in pixels, unless there’s been some big update to IE which actually made it competent in the last five years…you know what, nevermind. The acceptable solution (which, if only to placate the 0.1% of users with eyesight so poor they need larger font settings) is to set font-size: 76% on the body and then size in ems.

  13. #13 John Fleck

    Current size is fine for me.

    [You always were a trouble maker, John :-) -W]

  14. #14 Dano


    If current font size is fine, do nothing.

    If current font size is not fine, hold Control + roll scroll wheel.

    Oh, and what PZ Meyers said.



  15. #15 coby

    It’s not the size of the font, its the gyration of the animation ;-)

  16. #16 Thomas Winwood

    Unfortunately IE still holds a major grip on Internet traffic because 99+% of people just don’t care – they can’t see beyond the walls of Windows XP and Internet Explorer, and don’t see why they should care enough to make the switch to another browser – after all, they reason, why is Internet Explorer any different? Surely they’re all just Web browsers.
    It’s probably the case that the high Firefox usage on this blog (and I daresay other blogs mirrored on SB) is due to its high specificity in its audience.

  17. #17 Mark Hadfield

    Hi guys & gals

    I’m the reader who was foaming at the mouth–I’m feeling better now, thanks, there’s nothing like a good rant to clear the head.

    I am *very* familiar with Ctrl-+, and it does enlarge the text but it tends to make the pages look funny. I tend to use “View/Page Style/No Style”, but this mucks up layout and can make some pages look really funny. (The text in this edit box is *enormous*).

    Call me fussy, call me obsessive, but I think there’s something perverse about body { font-size: 76%; }. I mean, if the user has decided that a certain font looks nice, who are you to tell him he should have 76% of it.

    But now the Web Standards Project has gone to fonts that are too bloody small, I think I’ll give up…

    As long as Stoat doesn’t switch to a black background…

  18. #18 Peter Hearnden

    “If current font size is not fine, hold Control + roll scroll wheel.” Wel, shamefully :), I’m using IE and that doesn’t work – at least on this site.

  19. #19 Thomas Winwood

    Mark: the intention of body { font-size: 76%; } is to set 1em = 10px. That way people can happy size all text in pixels – it’s not “76% of the value the user has given for his font” but “76% of the default size of 1em”.

    Additionally, you might try using the !important qualifier in your custom CSS (assuming you aren’t already).

  20. #20 Dano


    FF only. Don’ work on no IE. And you shouldn’t be using IE.



  21. #21 Mark Hadfield

    Thanks for the custom CSS tip, Thomas. I’m not using custom CSS right now, as far as I am aware, but perhaps I should. I will look into it.

  22. #22 Peter Hearnden

    Hey, Dano, that’s rather CAish. I have a first name, Peter – P lease :)

  23. #23 Dano

    True Peter, but we can’t be in CA – there aren’t 19 flames after your entry, assiduously nitpicking everything you wrote. Plus, there are smart, attractive women here. ;o)

    But many apologies, sir. You shouldn’t have to live your life as if the smell follows you wherever you go…



  24. #24 Peter Hearnden

    Dano, thanks.

    This reply written using Firefox! And, yes, it does seem rather good :)

  25. #25 J-Dog

    For all you IE Haters out there: Got IE at work. Period, end of story. SO, the SB fonts ARE too small for me.

  26. #26 mike

    It’s too small. A website should adhere to certain standards, one being the size of the text. Basically, if the font is smaller than the majority, it’s probably too small. What justifies too small? Well, not a half-million subjective opinions of people that get a sortof twisted high off of bragging about how keen their eyesite is and how they’re uber-cool Firefox users, but what I stated above – comparison to the majority.

    Just make your text look normal like most other web pages. Done…

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