Should we continue to use relative units vs. relying on page zooming?

Looking at the upcoming releases of different web browsers I started to wonder whether specifying fonts in relative units, such as ems etc, will be a common approach in the future.

Web browser page zooming status

Beta 4 of Firefox 3, implements Page zooming, and the default behavior is to scale fonts as well as images. There’s an option in the menu to only scale text, though.

Latest nightlies of WebKit feature full page zoom, if you turn it on; then it also zooms images and text.

Opera and IE have already implemented page zooming; Opera a long time ago and IE in version 7. The IE team is also working hard on improving page zooming in IE 8.

Layout relativity won’t matter

Since the default behavior in these web browser when using the shortcut keys for increasing/decreasing font size has now turned into page zooming instead, my question is if should continue specifying font sizes in ems, % etc.

It seems like web browsers has, to some extent, taken the control away from us web developers in terms of creating fluid/elastic/gooey/skanky layouts. And really, is that a bad thing? There are times when increasing only the font-size is what you want, but most of the time, due to poorly created web sites or other factors, it’s just not a nice experience.

I think most users would appreciate full page zooming, where everything in the web page is resized in perfect relation to each other. It will be easier to read while at the same time giving the end user a more consistent use experience.

One possible downside

Now maybe I have convinced you to throw out your rocket science calculations of pixels into ems, you will have everything in pixels and be as happy as when you wrote your first Hello world HTML code.

However, what’s lurking in the bushes goes by the name of DPI (or rather, PPI). Simply put, it is about how many pixels you will have presented in an inch, and the result is that a pixel isn’t always a pixel, if you get my drift. Compare a laptop screen which might have a default setting of 120 DPI, where a pixel would appear larger than of a more normal screen with 96 DPI.

Therefore, there’s really no ways to have a perfectly consistent pixel size for end user.

So, my questions are: should we continue to use relative units? And if not, can we meet the DPI/PPI problem in a suitable manner?

Posted in CSS,Developing,Technology,Web browsers |

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