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I have a fluid site design that enlarges text font-size to keep the line length within acceptable parameters (70-80 chars).

It seems fine to me but for many people they complain that the font size is too large on full HD screens. My screen is larger than full HD and it looks fine to me. Is it actually harder to read large font (30px - 40px) or is it just a matter of getting used to it?

Should I keep the enlarged font size or do the traditional keep small font-size but enlarge margins.

Edit: Thanks for all your answers everyone, I get the general trend is that there is a too large font size. What I'm still missing and what I would like to hear is an explanation of what too large font size is, how to calculate it, its relationship to screen distance and screen size, and why it's too large, and so on. That would be really educational, thanks.

  • I think this has more to do with reading/screen distances rather than line length because small font sizes are hard to read on a computer compared to a book because you generally hold a book much closer to your eyes. Will try to track down some references, but there are some blogs out there that suggest the relative calculation between book and screen distance and font size. – Michael Lai Jul 18 '13 at 4:33
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I'm of two minds here. Of course it's important to respect user feedback, but in some cases I do think people are reacting more to their own expectations than to the actual performance of the text. It's not so much that large text is hard to read, just that people aren't used to seeing it on webpages. People read posters all the time, which use huge fonts. Magazine and newspaper covers use huge fonts. One big factor here is that there's going to be a lot of range in how people use their large HD screens. We can (usually) assume a mobile phone's screen is within arm's reach. It's harder to guess where a person is in relation to their monitor.

I'm currently working on a design that uses large fonts and most people give it very positive feedback, but some people really get caught up on the font size. Those individuals have the option of manually reducing font size on the page but that's a bit of a cop out.

I'm having a hard time finding good research on this online. There's lots of material on minimum font sizes, but very little I've been able to find in regards to optimal sizes or upper limits.


EDIT: https://www.imarc.com/blog/best-font-size-for-any-device This article has some practical information on font-size, but it appears to make some arbitrary judgements about large sizes. There's an interactive font-size calculator that says "now you're just getting silly" when entering large sizes. Even larger sizes result in the message "much, much too large. At this point reading speed drops". This would imply to me that those "silly" sizes are actually fine. It's not until reading speed actually drops that we can start to consider that font sizes might be too big.

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You are letting line length trump font size. Realize that one doesn't necessarily trump the other and there are limits to the practicality of that.

In general, however, people are not used to web sites changing the size of the text based on their browser size. So what you have designed is very much not the standard behavior. That, alone, would be a reason to reconsider.

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    Isn't that standard these days for responsive design. It's not like individual users see the font sizes changing, it's just that different screens get different sizes. – Harry Jul 18 '13 at 4:42
  • @harry I admit that is a slightly different scenario. So it's probably OK to do some font resizing, but note that pegging it to a specific line length is probably impractical and not really helping legibility all that much anyways. – DA01 Jul 18 '13 at 4:52
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Should I keep the enlarged font size or do the traditional keep small font-size but enlarge margins.

In other words you ask: should I ignore complains of many users and leave all as I like or...

The answer is obvious. But solution could be different. You could change a little font size assuming the large screens are more distant from user. Also you could change layout , i.e. be more responsive.

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I see this a LOT on web developer sites but not so much anywhere else. Huge font sizes with the assumption that the reader wants to fill his 30-inch monitor with your text while he leans back in his chair. That's an assumption as much as saying he wants his font in a smaller size while he puts his nose on the glass. If anything, I think this is a readability problem and not a solution.

The way I look at it, bigger screens mean more white space for more information I can put there...if necessary. Otherwise, fonts remain the same size, as does the line length except when a longer line length aids readability and layout.

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Font size of 30px - OK. Font size of 40px - OMG!!

I dont think people would appreciate reading such large fonts. Font sizes of 20 - 30px has always worked and that is what people are comfortable about. So i suggest that you set the max font size as 30 or something because 40 is just too big. I dont think people will get used to that.

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I've seen users criticize websites with large fonts, "page looks like it's made for the elders"

I can see this kind of critique as positive feedback. If old users with an impaired vision could use the page, imagine how easy users with normal vision would interact.

Of course, being able to read the text is one part of the interaction, and one must always weigh up the space used with the fonts size. (huge fonts != good readability)

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