Why do designers use small text?
In my experience with graphic designers I have noticed a common trait that often appears in their designs. I’m not just referring to web design, but many others applications, such as, business stationery and marketing materials.
You can try to understand how designers arrive at a final design by seeing the process in action. Layout is often fluid in a designers mind, this allows their creativity to move elements on the canvas, to resize and change shape. The single most important element is white space, although we don’t look at it directly, our eyes use it as a resting place.
A designer knows that it is the interaction of these individual elements and white space that creates the final effect. If this effect gets the WOW reaction, then sometimes the functionality of the design can be overlooked. Perhaps, this is because the designer is focusing on the intention to communicate a message, such a marketing strategy or branding image.
Unfortunately, the consequence of a great design may be the size of a font or typeface when it is so small it becomes difficult to read. The designer has sacrificed legibility for overall look and feel. For web design this problem is out of control when the text is embedded as a graphic or flash file. However, if the web page uses text links then the size can be increased or decreased in most browsers.
Does your web site contain small fonts that are fixed in size?
BMD web site developers recommend that important text, such as a menu or navigation, should be kept to a minimum size of 14 points or pixels, and this depends on the typeface. A significant number of web users have trouble reading anything less than this.