My idea of zooming in on a web page is that everything becomes bigger. Everything is still the same but just bigger. This is because I feel it should be like zooming on a camera or telescope (where I think the term comes from).

The zooming feature is required for many reasons and should be allowed but there seems to be two distinct styles. ux.stackexchange.com performs as I would expect and everything becomes larger. www.smashingmagazine.com and Twitter Bootstrap change as I zoom.

For a user on a large screen (desktop), what would they expect from a zoom function. Do users expect zoom to keep the same elements and placements and just make things larger?

Is it bad design for elements to be hidden or moved when zooming (www.smashingmagazine.com)? Or is it just a choice between using zoom for more detail (maps/images) or readability?

  • The difference between this website and Smashing or Bootstrap is that SE doesn't have a mobile variant, so it just zooms and uses the space it needs. SM and TB both accommodated for mobile so as you zoom in, it behaves like using the website on a mobile device.
    – Vince C
    Mar 25, 2015 at 7:15
  • All that I care about when I zoom, as a user, is making hard to read text easier to see. If that becomes harder, because, say, the site is jumping around too much in an attempt to be "responsive", and making me lose my place, then I will go elsewhere to find my information.
    – Emmett R.
    Apr 24, 2015 at 7:14

2 Answers 2


Zooming should not touch the content, as the use expects t magnifying glasse item on which they are zooming in on to fill more of the screen, so they could see it better. Think of a magnifying glass; whatever you put it above will 'zoom', becoming larger, and ultimately easier to see, or with more detail. This means that whatever the user is looking at, and wants to get bigger, will in fact get bigger.

This has some exceptions though; let's say you have an image app, if the user wants to 'zoom' an image, chances are they want to see something in it with greater detail. Unlike a website, which would get bigger UI and all, the user expects the image to zoom, and nothing more.

I hope this helps!


Zooming in on things is a pretty common pattern and should follow the experience of using a microscope where the expectation is to see the same exact thing only bigger.

Responsive design is a way to most effectively use the space available. as you zoom in on smashingmagazine.com the site is responsive (designed to work as best it can using the pixels it has) Although this breaks the mental model we have of zoom it provides a better experience across all devices with minimal development effort.

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