web design


If you want people to actually read the content on your web site, what font size should you use? How I long for a guideline for minimum font size for both usability and accessibility.

Font Size and Accessibility

The good folks at WebAIM have added an alert to the WAVE for any font rendered at 9px or below. They have observed that it becomes more difficult to read small text below 10px, particularly if you have a visual disability.

Font Size and Readability

Julia Kulla-Mader has studied the readability and legibility of fonts and posted her research at In Search of the Perfect Font. Her conclusion:

* Use an 11 to 14 point font regardless of your audience.
* Pay as much attention to font color as you pay to font size.
* Use scalable fonts.

Font Size and Usability and Aging

Clara Sibley has gathered valuable data on usability and aging. It is not surprise to see that research has shown 8-9 point font sizes (and even 10 point) are too small for the elderly.

Nayak et al (2006) examined the effect of font size and design attributes on comprehension. One hundred and five seniors ranging from 58 to 90 years of age participated in the study. Findings showed that 33% of the participants found 8-9 point font size too small with an additional 22% finding 10-point text too small.

Arc90 Readability Tool

When I’m on a destination page and really want to read it, I often reach for my Readability Bookmarklet. After clicking the magic “Readability” button, I sigh in relief and then dive into the juicy content with my eyes and my brain fully engaged.

So, when you want to read, I recommend Readability aka The Peace and Quiet Button).

What Do You Think?

If you were the god of the internet and could set a minimum font size standard (for text that is intended to be read)…what would you do?

Me…I think, if you set your rendered font size below 10 point, you really don’t want me to read it.

my teddy bear wearing a blue beanie

Do you remember when you first became a web standards believer? (or do you want to know why web standards are important?) Whether it was last week, last year or last decade, it forever changes the way you create for the web. But, when was the last time you helped someone else understand the value of web standards? Until web standards have completely permeated our industry, it is important for us to continue to spread the word while producing content that illustrates the point.

If you haven’t heard, Monday, November 30th is “Blue Beanie Day”. What in the world is “Blue Beanie Day”? It is a great idea dreamed up by Douglas Vos of Detroit, Michigan to show support for web standards and accessibility. Here is an excerpt from the 3rd Annual Blue Beanie Day Event Page:

The third annual Blue Beanie Day will be celebrated on Monday, November 30, 2009. On this day thousands of Standardistas (people who support web standards) will wear a Blue Beanie to show their support for accessible, semantic web content.

It’s easy to show your support for web design done right. Beg, borrow, or buy a Blue Beanie (or Blue Toque in Canada) and snap a photo of your mug wearing the blue. (Or get creative with Photoshop). Then on November 30, switch your profile picture in Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, (and any other social network) and post your photo to the Flickr Blue Beanie Day 2009 group.

Next Steps

  1. Make a personal commitment to fight Web Standards apathy. Show solidarity with the Standardistas on Monday, November 30th, 2009.
  2. Buy, beg, or borrow a Blue Beanie (blue hat or cap, even a black or grey one will do in a pinch.)
  3. Take a photo of yourself wearing the Blue Beanie. Or take a cool group photo of you and your friends wearing Blue Beanies.
  4. Post your photo, or photos to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and other social networks on Monday, November 30th, 2009. Remember to switch your Facebook profile photo that day, too!.
  5. Start by inviting all your friends to the Facebook Event for Blue Beanie Day 2009.
  6. Promote Blue Beanie Day on your blog, wiki, facebook page, twitter tweets — telling all your friends to get ready for Blue Beanie Day.

Want to help with planning the 3rd Annual Blue Beanie Day? Organize a group photo in your city? You might qualify to win a free copy of Zeldman and Marcotte’s (brand new) Designing With Web Standards 3rd edition. Contact Douglas Vos (mailto:doug.vos@gmail.com?Subject=BlueBeanieDay2009)

So, what are you waiting for? Go find, make, or photoshop your Blue Beanie. Tell your friends and see how many new people you can introduce to the way the web should will be.

Why are web standards important?

For a quick introduction, I recommend starting with the W3C goals. I swear, every time I read them I get goosebumps. Once you have “web for everyone. web on everything.” as your personal goal, you could head to the W3C’s Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case or read the difinitive text by Jefferey Zeldman, Designing with Web Standards.

What SXSWi 2010 panel am I dreaming about? Without a doubt, it is:

Open Web Education Alliance: Educating the Next Generation

In the world of web standards, industry forms best practices, education instructs emerging talent—and neither the twain shall meet. A decade on, the rate of standards adoption across the school/street divide is dishearteningly poor. Join us to discover how curriculum building and strategic industry alliance can close the gap.

Don’t miss your chance to hear about the revolution that is occurring in web education. Vote for the Open Web Education Alliance: Educating the Next Generation panel in the SXSWi 2010 Panel Picker.

You can help make the web a more accessible place by donating to Derek Featherstone’s IronMan Challenge.

Derek is competing in the upcoming IronMan Challenge in Lake Placid, New York on July 23. His goal is to raise $25,000 for Knowbility, an outstanding accessibility non-profit. If he meets that goal, Knowbility is eligible for additional matching funds from Janus!

It’s a great opportunity to support the wonderful Knowbility accessibility programs and to recognize Derek’s amazing effort! Please take a moment to pledge. If we all chip in, we can help Derek reach his goal while helping to sustain programs that ensure that everyone – including people with disabilities – can access the technology opportunities that have changed our world.

What’s an IronMan?

For those that aren’t familiar with an IronMan triathlon, here’s how it goes: at 7am 2400 people begin a gruelling day of triathlon racing 3.8km swim (2.4 miles), 180km bike (112 miles), and then run a marathon 42.2 km (26.2 miles). Eventually most will make our way across the finish line, though some will not.

How will Knowbility spend your money?

Every dollar of the funds raised through the Janus Challenge is directly applied to Knowbility’s award-winning programs. The convenient online form even allows you to choose which program your donation supports. Here is a brief snapshot of current program activities:

  • ATSTAR – ATSTAR (for Assistive Technology: Strategies, Tools, Accommodations & Resources) helps teachers, school administrators and parents effectively integrate assistive technology into the classroom for students. This online series of training modules has had over 600 participants this year, affecting thousands of K-12 students throughout the US! We’ve launched an online Forum for ATSTAR students and alumni, and are looking forward to welcoming new schools this fall.
  • Accessibility Training Institutes – For technology professionals who need to know more about accessibility, Knowbility offers training aligned with emerging technologies, new guidelines and best practices

    The California Web Accessibility Conference, attracting over 200 attendees from California universities, state agencies and businesses across the US is offered annually in partnership with the University of California’s Chancellor’s office.

    The John Slatin AccessU is a 3 day annual conference produced in partnership with St Edward’s University. Hands-on accessibility classes are organized into 4 professional tracks: Technical, Content, Administrative and Usability.

  • The Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) – Participants, start your (search) engines! AIR is a web design contest focused on creating web sites that are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities The purpose of the AIR program is to raise awareness and skills within the technology sector about how and why to make technology applications accessible. AIR Rallys are currently run in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston and are planned for Boston and other cities around the US. Donate to support AIR in your city!
  • AccessWorks – The AccessWorks program provides fee-based accessibility assessment, reporting and remediation services for customers in both the public and private sectors.

    The revenue generated helps to sustain our organization and provide further opportunities for people with disabilities.

    AccessWorks is now hiring disabled veterans and people with disabilities as part of an innovative on-the-job training program where they will learn how to perform accessibility remediation of PDF files and other common document formats. As an integral part of Knowbility’s accessibility practice, the trainees will provide valuable services to our customers and contribute to making the electronic world more accessible and inclusive for everyone.

Knowbility programs need your support, please make a donation! You will be helping millions of people with disabilities who deserve access to technology/

Knowbility is a non-profit based in Austin, Texas . Knowbility’s mission is to support the independence of children and adults with disabilities by promoting the use and improving the availability of accessible information technology. We envision a world of barrier-free information technology in which children, youth, and adults with disabilities have greater options to learn, work, and fully participate as producers and consumers in the information marketplace.

Knowbility Extends Early Deadline Discounts for The John Slatin Access U Training Institute, Austin, TX – May 11-12, 2009

Two days of classes in accessible information technology to help meet state and federal accessibility requirements.

In response to current economic conditions, the deadline for Early Bird discount registration rates for the John Slatin Access U training have been extended indefinitely. The announcement was made by the sponsoring organization, Knowbility, Inc.

WHAT: Offered since 2003, Access U provides one to three days of comprehensive web and IT accessibility classes led by world renowned accessibility and policy experts and administrators. The Institute promotes a better understanding of both the need and the techniques for inclusive IT design, with a focus on the most recent changes in federal and global standards for Web Accessibility. Register now.

WHEN: The John Slatin Access U will be held at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas on Monday, May 11, and Tuesday, May 12, 2009, with Post-Conference sessions on Wednesday, May 13.

  • May 11th and 12th – Classes in four professional tracks: Technical, Content, Administrative, Usability New this year! – Usability certificate program is available.
  • May 13th – Intensive Courses: Molly Holzschlag and Derek Featherstone in small venue.
  • 3-Day Design Intensive – May 11 – 13, 2009 Molly Holzschlag, Web standards advocate, instructor and author, offers three days of advanced techniques in HTML/XHTML and CSS for accessibility, SEO, and superior web site performance.
  • Post Conference All-Day Sessions – Wednesday, May 13, 2009 Derek Featherstone: Breaking New Ground: Designing for Accessibility in Emerging Technologies. Molly Holzschlag: CSS Floats, Positioning and layout, best practices, cross–browser and interoperable design solutions, and a look at some of CSS3’s juicy features.

WHY: Web accessibility is important…and it’s required by law. Websites can be designed for accessibility or they can shut people out. Four million Texans are among the more than 54 million people in the U.S. who live with disabilities of all sorts, many of whom cannot fully benefit from the Internet and the World Wide Web because too many Web sites are designed with no thought of accessibility. Accessibility is not only the right thing to do, but now there are federal, state and local mandates requiring accessibility, and Access U is here to help IT professionals and administrators meet those requirements.

WHO: Access U sponsors and partners include St. Edward’s University, Adobe, Ability Awareness and the Usability Professionals Association. Knowbility, Inc. is the non-profit organization that produces Access U and many other accessibility training programs.

I’m thrilled to be speaking at Web Directions North (WDN) in Denver this February 2-7, 2009. This intimate conference is the perfect opportunity to sharpen your professional skills and rekindle your passion for all things web. The program has been handcrafted for web designers, developers and UX professionals to soak up the latest best practices. What makes WDN so special? It is geared towards the intermediate to expert level web professional, not beginners.

I can’t wait to hear John Allsopp share his research on The State of the Web 2009, a survey of practicing web designers and developers, which aims to capture how people are developing for the web right now. And how can you resist these sessions:

The special Ed Directions Symposium on Tuesday, February 3rd will focus on the challenges of educating the next generation of web professionals. How do you developing curricula and training for web designers and developers? In the constantly evolving web profession how do you make sure your employees and/or students are equipped with the foundational knowledge of current best practices and standards? I’m looking forward to sharing a realistic glimpse of the state of web standards education on my campus, the University of Texas at Austin. Key speakers for Ed Directions include:

You can’t afford to miss this chance to learn, be inspired and refuel on practical and valuable insights and techniques.

Did I mention, the conference has an optional ski trip at Breckenridge? Imagine swooshing down the mountain on the perfect ski trail, then meeting up at the lodge to sit by the fire and talk about semantics and interactive design. (Sigh)

So, you say you don’t have any blind or deaf users. Or at least you don’t have enough to justify the cost of making your web site accessible. Well, let me tell you, you have an incredibly important blind user. Millions of people consult with this blind user every day, asking for his opinion and seeking his advice. This blind user’s name is…

google in braille

Google. Google is blind and deaf. Google has no eyes. Google has no ears. Everything you do to make your website accessible to people who have a visual or auditory disability helps Google. Search Engine Optimization and Accessibile Design are the very best of friends.

Need more proof? Head over to the Google Webmaster Guidelines and read it for yourself. Here is a direct quote from the Google Webmaster Guidelines for AJAX-enhanced sites:

Design for accessibility

We encourage webmasters to create pages for users, not just search engines. When you’re designing your AJAX site, think about the needs of your users, including those who may not be using a JavaScript-capable browser (for example, people who use screen readers or mobile devices). One of the easiest ways to test your site’s accessibility is to preview it in your browser with JavaScript turned off, or to view it in a text-only browser such as Lynx. Viewing a site as text-only can also help you identify other content which may be hard for Googlebot to see, such as text embedded in images or Flash.

I first heard this concept from my colleague Giorgio Brajnik while sitting with him on an Accessibility Panel at the very first AccessU Conference held by Knowbility in Austin, Texas. Up until that moment, I was evangelizing accessibility because it was the right thing to do. Now, I could answer the question, “Why make things accessible?”

  • because we can
  • to empower people build barriers
  • best practice
  • because it is the law
  • search engine optimization

How I love it when doing the right thing really does make the world a better place.

The Survey for People Who Make Websites 2008

I encourage y’all to head over to A List Apart and participate in their 2nd Annual Survey for People Who Make Websites. Help ALA collect data that will allow them to draw the picture of the ways web design is practiced around the globe. And even better, by making this kind of data available we could have a positive effect on best practices and employment, and even enhance public understanding of, and respect for, our profession.

Who should take the survey? Designers, developers, information architects, project managers, writers, editors, marketers and everyone else who makes websites.

Don’t be shy! Spread the word! (or as the nifty ALA banner says…”I took it! And so should you!” Take the Survey For People Who Make Websites 2008.

« Previous PageNext Page »