But recently there's been a fair bit of discussion over text resize widgits over at 456Berea St. Popular opinion has it that these widgits are not only unnecessary but harmful in that people come to rely on these widgits rather than find out how to resize text in the browser.
This argument baffles me. I hear "Teach a man to fish..." but I don't think that's a good analogy at all. We have to accept that some people will never learn to fish; either because they can't or they don't want to. If they don't want to, who are we to say that they have to?
Those who can't/won't may include:
- People who are mobility impaired, particularly those using switch access
- People who have learning difficulties
- People with cognitive disabilities
- People who won't realise the benefit until someone has actually shown them
- Infrequent web users
- People who aren't confident with technology
I think the last group mentioned here is probably the group that technologists often don't understand very well and have little empathy for. It includes many who are elderly and who are learning about technology later in life. It also includes those who just aren't confident period. I was in a room the other day talking with a colleague and there was a tiny tap on the door. Not sure we'd heard anything at all we kept talking until the door opened slightly and someone shyly and quietly asked something. Not catching what she said the first time I walked to the door and heard her ask "Is this the confidence building class?" I'd never heard of such a thing and was humbled at the thought of it. Naturally I helped her out the best I could and didn't feel inclined to slam the door on her fingers and tell her that she should have been better prepared.
Don't get me wrong, showing people how to resize text in the browser is a great feature. Those who can learn how to do it may benefit enormously. But not everyone will or can learn, and I don't think it's for the designer or developer to say that they have to. It is only their responsibility to make sites accessible and usable.
In summary I'd like to say that both approaches are sound and it's fine to use either (or both). I just don't understand why anyone would say that either is a waste of time.
Update: I meant to post a link to Ian Lloyd's "Teach a man to fish..." demonstration. My esteemed colleague has produced a very nice video demonstration of how to re-size text in a browser.