Fluid web typography gives us so many opportunities to better design the reading experiences on the web but, at the same time, introduces problems of font sizes scaling uncontrollably and potential accessibility issues. Is fluid web typography ready to be used?
This is a hard question to answer as there are many factors that go into web typography practice today. I think it boils down to:
- good responsive web design/development still being hard and complex
- web typography (still) isn’t perceived as important by many designers/developers
- potential accessibility problems
- fluid web typography can be very tricky.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Good responsive web design is still hard and complex
A lot of energy and effort goes into the first of the problems listed above. The tools that we have at our disposal for building responsive websites are the best as they have been. It’s so much easier to build a good responsive website these days but it still takes quite an effort. Picking the tools, testing them and then adopting them if it seems they offer what we need takes a large portion of the time in a web design process. We haven’t truly come to the point yet where we simply design a website and the tools, somewhat automatically, make sure that the website works well on most devices. For example, we still design (draw static images of) our websites in digital design tools that are so far apart from what the actual end product is made of—code. These tools barely support the basic responsive web design techniques, we can’t even speak about fluid typography in them.
Web typography isn’t perceived as important
The second one is something that I want to challenge with Better Web Type. There’s quite a bit of type geeks out there already but I think it’s kinda sad that it’s mostly these people that really care about the quality of typography used on the web. Sadly, a lot of web designers and developers still think of web typography as choosing a font and setting text sizes for their websites.
Fluid web typography comes with accessibility problems
Too few people think about accessibility when it comes to designing and building websites. I want to look at this specifically as I do this exploration. I noticed a few accessibility problems with fluid web typography before but nobody really speaks about this. It only gets mentioned here and there.
Fluid web typography is tricky
Using viewport units for setting font sizes is tricky. I receive a lot of emails from people telling me that they experimented with fluid typography but never actually used it on a live website. But fluid web typography doesn’t need to be tricky. We just need ways to make it easy-attainable and better. And there’s a lot of smart people out there that have ways of making it work. Let’s take a look at a few approaches and see what works best and which approach makes fluid web typography less tricky, controllable and better. As we do so, let’s also take a look if there are any accessibility concerns when it comes to using this approach as well.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below on whether you think designers are ready to implement responsive web typography today. Though I have seen some implementation in the past few months, it has not caught on as I would have expected, and I’d like your opinion on why that is. Thanks for reading.