Friday, February 11, 2005

Size Matters!

No, I'm not talking about "that" well-spammed subject, but about the size of type and other elements on a Web site.

As I squint see it, three movements converged in the last year or so: (1) I got old enough to need glasses to see my display; (2) Display resolutions continue to grow; my newish ThinkPad's native rez is 1400x1050; (3) It became a more common practice to use smaller elements on the Web. Put these together and I've found it more difficult to use many sites.

Web Design References points to two recent articles that address this issue. First is Garrett Dimon's Why Bigger is Better whose post begins,
One of the largest impediments to this wonderfully large utopian vision of the web is the average designer's desire to make things incredibly small and compact. While that may look pretty and save space, it doesn't do much for usability. In fact, it can have a clearly negative impact. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I believe bigger not only looks just as good, but functions amazingly better.
He quickly cites some good reasons—and (as is often the case) reader comments sweeten the post.

Then there's Christian Lagerkvist's Fitts' Law: The Missing Mouse Factor (Advisory: PDF ahead!) which explores the impact of smaller targets on mousing:
[A]s computer screens grow larger and larger, targets become increasingly harder to hit...But Fittz' [sic] law only accounts for target size and distance—not mouse sensitivity. Increasing the target size as a means of making targets easier to hit defeats the sole purpose of larger screens.
Looks like he's in favor of smaller elements. (By the way, watch out for those "Click Me's" on Christian's PDF.)

So what's the best size for type, images, targets and other elements? Other than a general "Large enough to see, read and click," I can't tell you. You'll have to ask your users. That's UXCentricity.

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