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User Control

In addition to differences between platforms, outdated methods, and CSS renderings, the web differs from print in that the user is supposed to retain some control over what she sees. Accommodating the user is as tricky with standards as it is with old-school methods, due to problems discussed in this chapter. (And oh, boy, will we discuss these problems in this chapter.) It is also difficult for traditionally trained designers to accept the premise of user control. Sadder still, CSS methods (ems, percentages, font size keywords) that are intended to deliver user control suffer from cross-browser and cross-platform problems. For one brief shining moment, these problems were resolved by the good will of browser makers, as they agreed to uniformly support a cross-platform standard size. But new browsers are unwittingly undoing that good work, making it tougher to balance design requirements with the user's need for control.

In this chapter, we will discuss the history and problems of web typography and study two methods of setting text via web standards. Both methods work well but neither one is perfect. We will also look at methods that are even less perfect because they're more fraught with problems. Thirteen is an unlucky number; designers who care about branding and design but who also want to do right by all users face tough and occasionally unfortunate choices, as this chapter will explain. We'll cover the techniques, their benefits, and their occasionally unhappy risks and tradeoffs. As always, you will decide which tradeoffs work best for your audience.


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