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Many of the current browsers will zoom in/out the entire page instead of increasing/decreasing just the font size. This is great because generally it doesn't break the visual design. I'm assuming that they designed this as an accessibility feature so that instead of increasing font size and possibly breaking the visual layout, this increases the size of everything. It still looks great for people with accessibility needs. This is giving more control back to the designers.

Are the days of the increase/decrease font UI element on pages gone? If we're designing for the latest browsers, do we have to be concerned with users increasing/decreasing font size?

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From an idealistic UI design point of view, it's always a good idea to assume that users may change the font size. Not because browsers use zoom or not, but because users can apply user stylesheets for accessibility reasons.

Unfortunately that's a hard sell to your marketing or graphic design teams, who want things to look the way they want them to look. So you need to find a practical compromise. In many cases, that can be a fluid width layout that stretches depending on what fits. For a good example, check out Feedly, which changes its entire layout on the fly depending on the screen size of the device used to access it (for instance, a desktop, an iPad, or a cellphone).

To answer your question, then, no, zoom in/out shouldn't affect design going forward. Good designs will always take user stylesheets into account but opt for good defaults that a large portion of the audience can use without trouble. However, the days of forcing your pixel perfect design on the end user should be behind us.

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Do we know that this new style of zoom provides a better experience for all users with disabilities? i.e. do we have any research to hand? Users with disabilities can have a very different experience with technology to what most people are used to, and we need to be wary of making assumptions not backed up with research/observation! Zooming the entire page has a different visual effect to zooming only the text, which could make reading more difficult. For example this site using Chrome when zoomed results in text going off the screen to the right, requiring the user to scroll horizontally back and forth to read the text, which is bad. (Hmm, how do you increase the size of just the text in Chrome?).

Things to consider: - Not everyone is using the latest browswer. The latest W3C browser stats for example indicate that only 16% of Internet Explorer users are using version 9. You can't rely on people having the latest and greatest. - In some cases text zoom may be preferable to screen zoom - By not catering to needs of those with disabilities, or those 'just' with poorer vision (and remember just about everyone over around 45 has degraded unaided vision) you are alienating and restricting your potential user base. On a global scale even a few percentage points could mean millions of people turned away

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I do non-profit work and there are a lot of users out there with disabilities or supporting those with disabilities, that still have older equipment. Many of them tend to be older and buying/upgrading isn't a priority for them - or they're waiting until someone at some point comes over and helps them....

So, I still support older stuff as much as possible and don't think that throwing out something that has been useful in the past and still can be should be done just because the majority has moved on.

I also agree that font-zooming still has it's place in ability to see the font larger without changing dimensions of everything in the window (though the container will increase too). Just another user option for those who prefer it.

Is it a must? Depends on user base, requirements, etc., a business call. Shouldn't be left up to a web designer to decide.

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My opinion is the following: page layout needs to be as stretchable as possible and not enforce user to choose between either having "100% zoom" and being unable to read those miniature 8 points letters or having large enough to be readable fonts at "250% zoom" and having to scroll the page horizontally. The user needs to be able to change the page size or the fints size and the page needs to rearrange still fitting into the browser window width.

What is needed is called "rubber layout site" and is quite popular in certain countries.

To get an idea of "rubber layout" see Yandex search page - when you stretch your browser window the "search query" edit field stretches as well. Meanwhile when you stretch Google search page the "search query" edit remains the same - you can't widen the edit, it is designed fixed.

"Rubber layout" is very convenient for the users - they don't want to sacrifice their eyes to the next (usually crappy) "design" of the next "designer" - instead they want to be able to view the full width of the page with fonts comfortable for them. You see, what is good according to some company brand book or to the guy next door is not good for me - I want a readable site and don't want to trade my health for the "design".

I suspect that "zooming the entire layout" was introduced because the culture of "rubber layout sites" is not as widespread as it is really in need.

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By "rubber layout", do you mean fluid width page layouts? –  Rahul Aug 23 '10 at 11:34
    
@Rahul: Maybe. I'm not sure. Looks like in your answer you mention the same concept. –  sharptooth Aug 24 '10 at 5:08
    
Yes. If you make me scroll horizontally I probably won't use your site. If you can handle increased font sizes and lay yourself out within the confines of the browser window I give you, you'll be usable to everybody. –  Monica Cellio Jul 12 '11 at 15:11
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