Relative Font Sizes

For once, I think we can all agree with Jakob: web designers should abandon the tyranny of absolute pixel sizes and give their users the benefit of scaleable fonts for greater accesibility.

The main problem with this is the wild inconsistency with which different browsers render relative font sizes. What looks like “70%” in one browser will not be that in another. Worse, if you rely on table-based layouts (you shouldn’t, but it will often be unavoidable), add to that Mozilla’s unique property of passing relative font sizes into table cells. Where before we were accustomed to setting a font-size for both “body” and “td” tags to avoid getting giant 1em text in our tables, now relative font-sizes will reduce your text to chicken scratches within tables in Mozilla.

Right now the only way I can see around this problem is to either not use font sizes at all and stick to whatever the browser uses as its default, or use some fancy script-based sniffing to load the stylesheet appropriate to the user’s browser. The latter, however, is too much a hack, which developers in a more ideal world should not have to resort to. Hence the need to continue the fight for standards.

Anyway, I’m still working on a solution for the Mozilla font size table cell problem. Any recommendations?


  1. Valerie says:

    You could do what I do — pretend Mozilla doesn’t exist!

  2. Paulo says:

    Can’t ignore it! Netscape 6, 7, and onward, as well as AOL 7.0 for Mac, will be running on the Mozilla engine. Like it or not, Moz is the fyoocher.

  3. Valerie says:

    Sigh…I’m in the wrong business. It’s too hard to keep up with all this stuff! I took your advice and changed to percentages for a new template I’m working on, but if it’s going to make things not work in browsers people actually use, I’l just going to have to switch back to pixels and let the blind fend for themselves! It seems as if every fix I learn for one browser makes something go haywire in another browser. I’m just not technically proficient enough to keep up with this stuff!