Text-Size Switcher Experiment

I incorporated a text-size switcher into a recent Experiment with Site Design for People with Cognitive Disabilities. I am trying this version because a feature like it may be easier to use for people with cognitive disabilities than a referral to instructions on how to increase text size.  This is a continuation of previous posts that describe my experiment with providing step-by-step instructions for changing text size in Firefox or Internet Explorer.

This text-size switcher, as pictured below, appears at the top of the test page, on the right side.

text menu above site logo and title

Description & Features

  • It is encountered immediately by site visitors who use a keyboard or a single-switch device for navigation.
  • It is activated via links that use simple words.
  • It has the following three versions. The first is displayed by default.  The latter two appear sequentially as the text-size switcher is activated. (The best way to understand it is to visit the test page and try it.)
    • Big Text
    • Smaller Text | Bigger Text
    • Smaller Text | Biggest Text
  • Its size always matches the text on the rest of the page.
  • Once it is invoked, the selected text size is displayed across all site pages.

[Edit on 2010-02-03: I just discovered a great article that discusses guidelines for text (font) resizing and the design difficulties faced accommodating it.  Entitled “Font Resizing Guidance“, it was written by Karl Groves of The SSB Bart Group. I realized with some satisfaction that, without having read the article first, the test page I created conforms to all the best practices and the recommendations it describes.]


As text size is increased, the switcher’s links shift left.  A mouse user therefore may need to move the cursor to the right to select subsequent links for larger text.  It would be simpler if the switcher were set up so a user could just click the same place a couple of times to increase text size.

It does not use symbols to indicate its function.  I will have to survey other sites to find examples of simple ones.


As always, I am open to learning about alternative solutions. Please contact me or post a comment.

Related posts:

2 thoughts on “Text-Size Switcher Experiment

  1. Hi John,

    Nice site you’ve got here & I applaud what you’re doing.

    Re: the problem with the text size links moving.

    I find more fundamental issues with this mechanism. As well as the text size changing, the text itself changes so one has to register both changes at the same. Would it be easier to fix the sizes of this text rather than have it scale with the rest of the page?

    I’m also not convinced by the “skip to content” link that’s displayed in the same ul as the text sizing controls, with the same spacing etc. Perhaps this should be on the top left, on its own?


    1. Thank you, Alex, for your feedback. I am very pleased to receive it.

      Placing the “skip to content” link on the top left, by itself, is a worthy idea. I shall do so for my next test design.

      I see arguments for and against fixing the size of the text-size-changing prompts. Against it is that the prompts remain small, perhaps too small to see well for those people who choose to enlarge text size. For it is that people who click the prompts already can see them well enough to click them, so increasing their size along with the rest of the text may not be necessary.

      I do take your point that registering two changes (text size and position) is problematic. For my next test design, I will work on fixing the position of the text-size-changing prompts. It may be the only way to do that is to place them on the left side of the page, perhaps under “skip to content”.

      So, I anticipate my next test design will also have the size of the text-size-changing prompts scale with the rest of the text. I shall inform you when I do so that we could revisit this discussion.

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