Let your readers be in control: Text resizing

Text resize buttons on a single website or enable your readers to take control and learn how to make all their internet viewing a better experience? Which would you prefer?

Later in this article, I’ll provide you with a helpful list of links to resources which can help you to understand more about accessibility.

As well as designing for the web, and supporting groups to make informed choices for their website ideas, I also help with accessibility audits too. Some people get ‘told and sold’ that their website is accessible because of a bit of code that shows buttons on their site to enable their viewers to resize their text on that site. In some cases, a few of these sites are highly in accessible in many other areas. I’m not totally against resize buttons, and have implemented it myself within reason on some sites where relevant and complimentary to compliant, accessible design. I also include helpful guides on how to resize text easily within your browser. I do feel though, that text resize buttons, don’t serve any real value and shouldn’t be needed. I also ensure that even without these controls, the site aims to be accessible from the users end, as best as possible, no matter what device, browser or platform they are using to access the information they are seeking.

Another common barrier to making a websites more usable for all can be the way that some accessibility statements on sites are written. They are conveyed in a manner which seem best read by other website developers, rather than for the understandable benefit to the end user who just wants to be able to access their site of choice without having to learn and understand a myriad of jargon about the way the site was designed.

One example of text resizing buttons acting in a complementing manner is on the Webcredible website. Not only do they have buttons, but also the site design is carefully constructed for maximum usability and accessibility, that’s what Webcredible do. Also they have a simple piece on their ‘about this site’ page which enables users to take control and learn how they can change their text viewing size for themselves. But sadly not all sites are that well designed.

One person that I know well, who has difficulties with many sites due to the font size, often finds that text resize buttons cause more of a barrier than a help. Especially when they are viewing sites with outgoing links. What use is making one site with text resizing facilities when that site then leads them to another website with a totally different ability to render text at an appropriate size?

So, shouldn’t we all be trying to help users to have a better experience by helping them to take control?
By improving your readers knowledge and understanding with help on suitable browsers (including Opera and Firefox) and showing them how to make their viewing easier, the internet can slowly but surely become a more inclusive place for all.

At Accessify, a website of tools and resources to help with accessibility for websites, Ian Lloyd has posted an article “Teach a Man to Fish (or How to Resize Text)”. It includes a visual guide video on text resizing. The video shows how you can take control by showing how easy this can be achieved in a variety of browsers. For those that cannot see the video there is a text transcript available too. The aim of the video and transcription is that it helps to provide a visual and audio way to complement “accessibility / how to use this site” statements on websites.

I feel this video is a good move forward, although after my validation problems with YouTube which I blogged about back in the summer with the embedding code not adhering to standards, maybe YouTube isn’t the best platform to show it on!

I hope that this first attempt was a work in progress and could be improved with audio text captions and better quality of screencast too (this is after all being aimed at those who may have visual difficulties).
I’d see that the best way to put this on my site as it is specifically to do with making sites more usable would be to use the some of the ways listed by A List Apart on embedding flash movies which can be customised to degrade if someone has turned off javascript or their browser doesn’t support flash to show alternative text instead, rather than using the provided embed code by YouTube or similar.

Two of my favourite accessible designers who blog have written on this topic too. Mike Cherim at Beast-Blog.com writes about resize buttons and shows the transcript of how to resize your text. Also, Roger Johannson of 456 Berea Street in his article Scrap text resize widgets and teach people how to resize text.

I haven’t yet done a new section on how to get the best out of my blog site since re-formatting my ‘about’ page on this site and also watching how people are using my recently added audio feed, and have been pondering on this for a while. Refreshingly, this raised interest once again has highlighted that I must get it done. I’ll be writing it in a human orientated user friendly way to help readers take control.

Interested in making your site more accessible to all?

If you or your organisation has a website and is concerned about accessibility, there are lots of resources to help. Many of the sites listed below have a wide range of articles, resources and further links to help you to understand and implement accessibility and usability.

  • The ICT Hub has a free web accessibility pack for voluntary organisations, available for online download, or you can request for it to be posted with a CD-Rom on How to commission and design accessible websites. It was written by AbilityNet, and provides an excellent practical introduction to web accessibility and equips you with the knowledge to make your site accessible at no or little extra cost.
  • Bobby, is an online validation tool which can check your website for accessibility.
  • My Web My Way on the BBC website, contains lots of useful information on how to change your browser and computer settings to make your viewing easier.
  • The RNIB’s Web Accessibility Centre has information and advice to help make your site available to everyone.
  • My Links Page has an area on Accessibility