First, we developed layouts based on pixels. Along came accessibility and scalability, and we started to specify our fonts with
ems instead. Then, those of us who wanted to be really out there created whole layouts using ems, so the whole layout would scale accordingly to the user’s current text size setting, giving a more consistent design impression. Hand in hand with this, we also created layouts that were elastic, expanding but with a fixed maximum and/or minimum width.
They way I see it, we break our necks calculating pixels into
em, trying to make sure that every value is roundable. Then, of course, when the user changes his/her text size setting, it’s bound to be some rounding errors depending on the new size and things like inheritance of the
em value into different elements.
Personally, I think it’s gone to far. The reason people started to use
em for fonts weren’t because pixels were a bad unit, but for the fact that Internet Explorer didn’t support resizing of the text size when the font was specified in pixels.
Ever since I was a little kid, playing video games, I’ve been amazed by the fact that no matter what size one has of the TV screen, the game adapts and you can just start playing. When I started to develop web sites, I couldn’t believe the constraints of a fixed size delivered to everyone. Sure, vector graphics aren’t here yet for the web (I can’t believe why SVG isn’t already built into every web browser), but lately I’ve been testing something that gets us as close as possible: the Zoom feature in Opera.
I think it’s outright brilliant! Talk about making it more accessible while keeping the general look of the web site! You zoom a web site to desirable viewing size and it just works. Doesn’t matter if the font is in pixels, or if the web site itself has a hardcoded width. Scale, baby, scale.
My conclusion is that this feature should be mandatory in every web browser. Stop developing with
ems, use your beloved pixels, and instead give us tools (read: web browsers) that offer users the features they need.