Didn't Rich Wiggins set up a spinoff group for MSU web managers? I can't seem to find information about it.
I'll put my rant here on MSUNAG anyway. It has to do with unreadable web sites. Most, but not all, of those at MSU are pretty good that way -- much better than average. But elsewhere on the web there seems to be a growing problem with site designers using teensy, unreadable, unresizable fonts. It's a real problem for people with visual disabilities.
I don't have any official disability, but it's an issue for me, too. There are more and more things on the web that I just can't read with Internet Explorer. I can't look at them for more than a few seconds without getting nauseous. It's similar to a problem I had several years ago when monitors weren't as good as they are now. I've had my head examined, etc., but have found I just need to be careful with how I use monitors. If I'm not, I get dizzy such that I fall down, and then it takes a few weeks before I can use a monitor normally again. Improvements in monitors over the past 15 years have made this much less of a problem for me, but now it's getting to be a problem again, mostly due to web site designers who use teensy, unresizable fonts.
I've been making it a point lately to register my complaint to at least one web site each day, and point the people to the readability guidelines that can be found at a place like this: http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/code/InternetHome.hcsp
My success rate at getting people to change their ways has not been high. One on-line magazine that I read regularly went to teensy, unresizable fonts a year or so ago. Other readers and I complained, and they fixed it. But now, as of yesterday, they've gone back to the bad way. And today I came across something called WebProNews. Yup, they are one of the worst offenders, using a font even smaller than most. I couldn't help but fire off a sarcastic e-mail.
Maybe my difficulties in being polite about this have something to do with my success rate. But it's a mystery to me why people do this. If I understood why people are motivated to do such idiotic, boneheaded things, maybe I'd know how to talk nice to them. As far as I know, the main thing is to specify font sizes in em or % units rather than px. So that's what I tell them. Is that completely correct, though? Sometimes site designers are control freaks who want to maintain a certain look to identify their products. But this problem occurs even when it makes no substantive difference at all to the look of the site, which is the case most of the time. So why do they do it?
It seems every time I bring this up people want to tell me about the View - Text Size menu in IE. Yes, I know about that and use it all the time. The problem is with fonts where it has no effect. I use the Opera browser a lot to deal with the problem -- one can set it up to ignore the author's font settings. But I use lots of different computers, many of them not under my control, and they don't all have Opera.
I see that ACNS mostly does it right on its web pages, but there are a few that don't. Is this a conscious design policy? Or is it doing the right thing by accident? The MSU library also does it right in all of the most important pages, but there are a few recent additions that don't. I started looking at departmental sites, and so far see that most of them are OK, but there are a few that are not. Some of those that use unresizable fonts at least don't use the tiniest ones available, which means they are manageable for me. But they might not be to people who have more severe problems. But there are enough good sites that I'm wondering if ACNS or some other group at MSU has been actively promoting web readability. If so, I think that activity ought to be applauded and extended.
In the U.K., there has been legislation and recent court decisions that have mandated web readability. I'm not very much in favor of legal controls. I'd rather see it done through social controls, such that there would be a stigma attached to making sites unreadable. If web designers who use these unreadable fonts would find that they are shunned by their peers, cannot find sexual partners, and that their parents find it necessary to emphasize how they love their children no matter what, I think the problem would take care of itself.
To that end, I am all in favor of MSU doing its part to promote readability. If there are any groups at MSU who are at work on this issue, it would be good to know about them. I'd also appreciate advice on how to approach other web designers about this problem.
W.K. Kellogg Biological Station