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Large Print Graphics for Older Eyes? 67

Posted by Cliff
from the if-you-can't-read-this-you-are-too-close dept.
random_nickname asks: "My lovely wife is a Graphic Designer with a small company which specializes in custom-made wine labels. She is re-designing the current site, to bring the code up-to-date and a little more shnazzy. Her boss is insisting that, due to their primary market - the elderly - she needs to create overly 'large-print' graphics, to make the site easier to browse for that demographic. My wife feels that this is unnecessary due to resolution control and monitor sizes, etc.. Are there sites out there that currently employ over-sized graphics for the elderly and has it made a difference in business? Is there a real need for this kind of solution?"
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Large Print Graphics for Older Eyes?

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  • The solution is to make the site more graphics-oriented and less text-oriented.

    As much as possible use large graphics to convey the message of the site. Put appropriate captions under each picture, even duplicating the text of the graphic, in order to enable text2voice software to be able to read the site to visually impaired visitors.

    Large text may be useful so long as the font is limited to 16pt. Any more than that and you'll likely offend the elderly more than help them.
    • by Oddly_Drac (625066)
      "more graphics-oriented"

      &

      "enable text2voice software"

      Idiot. The first thing to do is check out the available options for visually impaired users. Turn on the text to voice and check out a webpage for a real eyeopener in how difficult this market is to design for. Simulate visual impairment by sitting a way from the screen, and check that demographic directly by checking for the browsers that people use. If you have screen readers in there, consider switching stylesheets for them. View the
    • That's the exact opposite of the correct answer.

      A more text-oriented site will allow the visually impaired to adjust the size of the print they're looking at to suit them.

      Just make sure you don't specify absolute text sizes in your css.

      As for the graphics question, why not just add a 'click here for large view' to each picture, and point it at a very large version of the respective image?

    • Graphics don't scale on monitors! Who knows what the viewers are seeing if you use images for everything? Some folks still run at 800x600, while others are at much higher resolutions - all of this is semi-independent of actual monitor size. At least with fonts, people will often scale up their font sizes if they are running their screen at a high resolution.

      Text is definitely the way to go, or in this case, stay. I really like the way wired.com [wired.com] does things. A nice clear list of "A"'s in the top righ
  • by BladeMelbourne (518866) on Thursday August 28, 2003 @11:57PM (#6821148)
    Instead of using
    p { font-size:11px; }

    Use
    p { font-size:size; }

    Where size takes any of the following values:
    xx-small, x-small, small, medium, large, x-large or xx-large

    That way visually impaired users can alter their browser's text setting to enlarge the fonts. This does not work with fonts set to pixel heights.

    Try it out on this site:
    http://www.georgiancourt.com.au/

    Mike
    • You can also use percentage specifications..
      span.note { font-size:90% }
      body { font-size:100% }
      h3 { font-size:105% }
      h2 { font-size:110% }
      h1 { font-size:115% }

      and "smaller"/"larger"..
      em { font-size:larger }
      address { font-size:smaller}

      It's also worth pointing out that you shouldn't make the "base" font size (i.e the size of normal text on your site) anything different than the default -- if somebody in thier browser settings says they want thier normal text to be 17pt, we shouldn't then
    • You forget that 80% of computer users (and 99% of elderly computer users) don't even know how to change the text size in their browser. Hell, a lot of them don't even know how to set their homepage.

      Cardinal rule of commercial website design:
      Don't assume the users know jack shit, because the majority of them won't.
      • Sure, but if a user has poor vision, your site is not the only one they'll have problems with. If they're legally blind and have their own machine, they will use things like OS X's Universal Access settings to magnify parts of the screen at the system level. No need to do anything special with the site, per se, though keeping it text based rather than with graphical navigation elements would keep more options available.

        Also, a vector format such as Flash might have it's place if the interface is not embedd
      • You forget that 80% of computer users (and 99% of elderly computer users) don't even know how to change the text size in their browser. Hell, a lot of them don't even know how to set their homepage.

        So make it really easy for them and include a link on the page to change the font size larger or smaller. It's easy to do and it makes the choice very easy for them.

        I'm a firm believer in taking a little extra time to make the viewer's job a little easier. It works in programming and it works in webpage codi
    • Actually, pt works just fine, try it out. You specify pt sizes for everything, and it'll work. The targent audience is using Windows and either Netscape or IE. Both of these browsers under windows will resize font size if you specify pt. Now, px is another matter, of course, and you are quite right about that.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, pt works just fine, try it out. You specify pt sizes for everything, and it'll work.

        No it won't.

        • Browsers rarely get the accurate monitor DPI - so the text won't be the size you request.
        • People using Internet Explorer won't be able to resize the text to something larger if they need to.
        • You have no idea what size font I find readable, or what display I have. When you use pts, you are guessing, and you will be wrong for quite a few people no matter what you guess.
        • pt is the recommended standard by the w3c.
          Not only that, but it does indeed work and is totally overrideable by the users browser just as xx-small, x-small etc are, except that with pt you get more than 7 options.

          px and em don't and never will because they are supposed to be absolute sizes by definition. But they do have their place. Sometimes there is a legitimate need to size something absolutely, and know that it is going to be that size when it is rendered...but obviously caution is needed and these sh
    • That's a great idea in most cases...

      ... but in the case of older people, who may be using older, hand-me-down, or whatever-they-could-find-in-the-store computers, they're likely to be running Netscape 4 or a similar vintage AOL or IE. My advice would be:

      • do the CSS thing
      • AND use vintage browser workarounds


      Hmmm... I think wines age better than web browsers, but in this case your audience has vintage both.
  • My vision is pretty good, though it has worsened a bit in the last couple years(I assume from staring at computer displays so much), but I use a 19" monitor, and I run 1600x1200 resolution. Before I tweaked anything, almost all websites were impossible to read. I upped the dpi of my fonts, and it made all the difference.

    Now, pretty much all sites are clearly readable. In fact, I think the fonts are a little larger now with the larger dpi settings than they were before when I used 1024x768.

    The only thing t
    • Re:My thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

      by Babbster (107076)
      I'm a relatively young man (31) but I have poor vision and browse the web with a keyboard on my lap and a 17" monitor (1024x768) about 2-1/2 feet away. My biggest pet peeve is size-locked fonts. I don't think style is a good excuse to put up small fonts on text-heavy sites - rather, I think it's a mark of HTML laziness.

      Fortunately, I dropped IE which does the absolute worst job of any of the browsers at scaling fixed fonts (most of the time it won't allow any scaling at all). I use Firebird now for var

      • Re:My thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

        by Echnin (607099)
        Don't forget Opera's user-specified style sheets. Can easily get a white-on-black screen with only text at 20 px height, which is actually very comfortable to read. I use this feature on poorly designed web pages.
  • I don't think it's necessary for the same reasons as your wife. People who have visual impairments will already have thier browser, and computer in general, setup in a way that aids them for use with sites/software that is not designed with them in mind. If you then provide them with larger graphics, they are gonna see something hella-huge!

    As long as you design your site so that it doesn't force the user into something (i.e don't force the user to use a specific font size, just leave it at the default fo
  • by innosent (618233) <jmdorityNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @12:00AM (#6821165)
    The other thing you have to remember is that the vast majority of the elderly users don't have 21" monitors. Most probably have 14-15" CRTs, because that's what came with their $300 computer that their kids gave them for Christmas/Channukah/Kwanzaa/whatever. Also, most don't know how to change the default font sizes, and large print could really make your site stand out. If they struggle to read your competitors' sites, but find yours easy to read, and intuitive to navigate, they will visit your site more often.

    Design on a 15" monitor, with 1024x768 resolution, and make the site easy to read from about 6' away, and you should be just about right. It will make a difference, and as long as the layout is intuitive, it will bring more people to your site. Web design for most sites out there is horrible, and many elderly find it hard to understand (hell, many of college kids have trouble with some).

    In other words, increase the print size a little, but don't forget that the #1 thing that will help the older members of the population (and in fact younger people, too) is an intuitive interface and navigation. Also, no matter what you do, some people are going to need help, so make sure that the contact information is easy to find, and be sure to list a customer service phone number. A person that has trouble with a good web page will be more likely to also have trouble emailing a question, so why force them (like too many other sites do)?
    • Don't you mean 800x600? I can't believe how many people with 17" monitors still use 800x600 as thier resolution. Unless the computer shipped with 1024x768 default I wouldn't expect to see that as the default resolution, and I certainly wouldn't expect it with a 15" monitor.
      • Not to mention: check it at 640x480, because that's the default pre-WinXP. Anyone that has a hard time reading text on the screen is not going to be using 1024x768 on a 15" monitor (or a 17" monitor for that matter).
      • I got an IBM Aptiva in '99 with a 15" monitor and 1024x768 default resolution. So, er, I guess this would at least be common these days..

        Where can you get 15"s these days, though? All the stores here have stopped selling them, except for LCDs. 'Course, that won't come with a $300 computer anyway.

    • Agreed. It is important. Not only do few people know how to change the font size, sites that are not designed with a large font size in mind don't display well.
    • This seems like a silly and futile argument to have with your boss.Let's remember which way the money is flowing here. Geez, it's not like it's her personal web site, right?

      More to the point, you don't have to be "elderly" to have vision problems. (In fact, I'd say her boss was engaging in a bit of ageism.) Very few people have both perfect vision as well as the kind of hardware many designers use. If it looks great on your 21-inch Apple flatscreen, why not try looking at it using a cheap 15-inch monitor
  • One solution I have seen for this problem is to have a few font size controls in the upper corner. I think wired uses this in the upper right of some of their articles. Basically, click the button and it changes the CSS with a dash of javascript(like 1 line I think could do it). Just one of many ways...

    Also, on entering the site, give people the option to choose the look they want.

    Anyway.
  • by skaffen42 (579313) on Friday August 29, 2003 @12:04AM (#6821183)
    Though my vision problems usually occur while drinking the wine, not when buying it. :)

    But seriously, as a wine lover I really don't like these new-fangled labels the wine makers are coming up with. Give me something classic, you know, something with fonts that take a while decipher. And don't get me started on artificial corks. They might be better in all ways, but they are still wrong! And the next guy who tries to sell wine in a novelty bottle is going to need help from a proctologist to remove that bottle from his person.

    OK, so that was completely off-topic and doesn't address your question at all, but at least it'll give you an idea of the level of logic you can expect from your target audience.

    • What wines are you talking about?

      I guess there's the fish-shaped Italian wine bottle, but aside from that, I am hard pressed (pun!) to think of any strangely-labeled or unusually shaped wine bottles.
      • Well, I think that the most exciting a wine label should look like is this [wine.com]. This [wine.com] is even better. But nobody should be allowed to do this [wine.com] or this [wine.com].

        I can't find any pictures of novelty bottles, but I do have one downstairs that my girlfriend (bless her heart, but she is a comlete wine pleb) bought because she liked the bottle!. Picture a normal burgundy style bottle that looks like it has been heated to point where the glass began to droop. Then it had fine sand or something sprinkled on it to make it look l
  • Way back in the mists of history -- figure the mid-'90s, give or take an IPO or two -- I used to do some odd bits of print design for a blindness-related non-profit [blindness.org] here on the East Coast. One day, when conversation turned to the org's web presence, they mentioned how they had been quite deliberate in "oversizing" everything on their site to cater to users with failing eyesight -- mostly the elderly, as it turns out. Taking a look at the site today, it appears that not much has changed, so I guess the philo

  • Up the font size (Score:2, Interesting)

    by grayrest (468197)
    First, why ask /.? Wouldn't this be better posed to a group that knows something about graphic design? IANAGD (graphic designer), but I'm currently studying digital design and reading books on the subject. The following is basically lifted from > type < for the internet and other digital media by Veruschka Gotz and the Web Style Guide [webstyleguide.com].

    The problem with graphic designers used to working with paper is that the lower resolution of the screen severely reduces the legibility of fonts. You basically have to
  • just write two stylesheets, and let them pick.

    problem solved!

  • If you know someone with poor vision, I suggest you have them use a browser that actually zooms the page content. Try Opera or Mozilla.

    And for all you web designers out there, use EMs for setting your font (and everything else) size.
    • "And for all you web designers out there, use EMs for setting your font (and everything else) size."

      The EM unit is related to the width of a letter 'M'. So how big is that if you're just using EMs?

    • "Please download Mozilla because it is open and if you use Internet Explorer you are stupid and contributing to the end of the world." Yeah, that'll work. Great marketting strategy. Why does every article have to have a comment thrown in like this. These people make the open source community sound like the taliban ranting about america.
  • I say, make a GUI element that lets a user choose between small, medium and large text easily. If you have to, make the GUI element large enough to read for the elderly or make large text the default. I can't stand when a site ignores the browser's text controls. This would be a nice middle ground in my opinion.
  • No text in graphics! (Score:2, Informative)

    by driptray (187357)

    HTML is a wonderful tool for making text that easily accessible by people with poor eyesight. This is because it allows the reader to set a default text size that suits them and/or to increase font size whenever they want.

    So don't throw this advantage away. Here's how:

    • Don't put text in graphics. This makes it impossible or impractical for the user to resize. If you make the text big for your elderly users, then it will be too big for everybody else.

    • Don't use <FONT SIZE=>. Leave the fon

  • by Sklivvz (167003) *
    She got herself into a mess! :-O
    My company developed a site targeted for 50+ year olds, a couple years ago. I can tell you it was one of the worst problems we've ever had!
    First of all, even if her boss thinks that the primary age range is the elderly, it is quite unlikely that it will be so. Most elderly either don't browse or have someone help them browsing.
    On the other hand, when they do browse, they are already used to the way pages are currently laid out (small fonts), and have accepted this paradigm.
    Ot
    • Re:Ouch! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cathouse (602815) *
      Whatdahell's this 'Ouch!' shit?? You ain't even come close ta be'in hurt yet, Woose! Parent post is actualy about half right; very rare on /. when the subject touches on a human reality. Yes, I hit 60 a couple of months back! Yes, I've been seriously visualy impaired since an encounter between my slow head and a fast landing gear strut resulted in assorted minor trauma and detached the retina in my right eye. But I am NOT and never will be the doddering, half-senile object of the maggot-gagging stereoty
  • You may wish to avoid fixing the size of layout elements too. One way to do this is to define element widths, heights and positions in ems [htmlhelp.com]. An em is a standard typographical measurement defined as the width of an "m" character. In CSS an em is the width of an "m" in an element's font.

    I usually use both px and em when laying out a web page. I use px to position elements accurately and I use em to define spacing that relates to text. For example, I would use ems to set paragraph spacing and padding around t

  • Some of us younger folks have less than perfect eyesight. It is very annoying to try to read text on a web site that was designed by some 20-year-old with 20/10 vision and a desire to pack as much text as possible on the page.
    1. Is there a real need for this kind of solution?
    No [upshawinst.org]

  • by jilles (20976) on Friday August 29, 2003 @05:30AM (#6822174) Homepage
    First look at this stuff:
    http://diveintoaccessibility.org/
    http:// www.w3.org/WAI/

    People already gave some advice on fonts. Here's some additional advice:

    - provide an alternate stylesheet with increased font-sizes (specified in em), high contrast colors and if needed increased graphics sizes.
    - specify sizes of other stuff in em as well (e.g. margins and paddings). This will make sure that the content will still look good if the fonts are resized.
    - do not 'optimize' your site for a particular resolution.
  • Make it ACCESSIBLE (Score:5, Informative)

    by ManxStef (469602) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:52AM (#6822654) Homepage
    Hehe, Slashdot's not really a shining example of web accessibility, but it's a good place to ask for help none-the-less.

    The first stops for help (as someone's no doubt pointed out already) should be:

    Section 508 [section508.gov]

    Mark Pilgrim's excellent "Dive Into Accessibility" [diveintoac...bility.org]

    The W3C's web accessibility guide [w3.org]

    The UK Disabled Rights Commission website [drc.gov.uk], paying particular attention to the superb Interactive Demos [drc.gov.uk] (e.g. Inaccessible Website Demo [drc.gov.uk]).

    Buy these books:

    Constructing Accessible Websites [webaim.org]

    Building Accessible Websites [amazon.com]

    Oh, and a copy of Zeldman's Designing With Web Standards [amazon.com] for good measure.

    Write your pages using validating HTML or XHTML, and style the pages using CSS.

    Validate your webpages using the W3C Validator [w3.org]and your CSS using the W3C CSS Validator. [w3.org]Use Watchfire's Bobby [watchfire.com] to validate your pages, and aim for AAA rating (also note that Bobby has some helpful hints when it does find errors).

    Other excellent resources (in no particular order):

    http://www.webstandards.org/ [webstandards.org]
    http://www.w3.org/WAI/References/QuickTips/ [w3.org]
    http://www.mezzoblue.com/ [mezzoblue.com]
    http://www.meyerweb.com/ [meyerweb.com]
    http://www.simplebits.com/ [simplebits.com]
    http://www.whatdoiknow.org/ [whatdoiknow.org]
    http://www.stopdesign.com/ [stopdesign.com]
  • A script with variable-fontsized text based on the screen resolution.

    Keeping in mind that 24pt font on 640x480 is about an inch high...
    • A script with variable-fontsized text based on the screen resolution.

      You know nothing. Trust me. That's not how you make web sites more accessible. This is how you defeat accessibility because many screen readers and specialized browsers don't understand JavaScript. You use stylesheets and standards compliant mark up. Get out of the web business, please.

      Keeping in mind that 24pt font on 640x480 is about an inch high...

      Oh yea? Prove it. What if they have a 21 inch monitor running at 640x480? Wh

  • Those that are visually impaired have the tools to view the site appropriately. For example, my 89-year old father-in-law uses the magification feature in Opera, which (correctly) magnifies both text and graphics.

    The only thing you have to do, as others have pointed out, is make sure that the code is accessible (for use with text-mode browsers, for the seriously visually impaired), and browser neutral.
  • by schepers (462428)
    This is a perfect use for SVG graphics. For any (non-photographic) images or logos, use an SVG graphic, and scale it according to the fonts size needed.

    By embedding the font you need in the SVG graphic itself, you are not limited to the fonts on the user's system, either.
  • Regarding screen sizes: the same people who complain about small type will insist they need a small screen, that 18" is too large. They cannot coherently explain why smaller things are easier to see, but a large percentage of them insist on it, including almost everyone who wears bifocals. Many of them use 14" viewables and don't totally maximize the browser window.

    In order to compensate for the small size of their screens, they will cut the resolution to 640x480, and I'm convinced they'd set it small

  • I've found a good way to make text easy to read for people with eyesight problems is to use the BBC's BETSIE [bbc.co.uk] program. It's a perl script that takes any graphical page and strips it of graphics, making the text large and easy to read. Check it out on the BBC [bbc.co.uk] website by clicking on the "Text Only" link in the top-left corner.
  • Sounds like the boss probably has a grasp of the requirements, but not really a grasp of the underlying technology. Asking for "large-print graphics" sounds to me like it's just a general request for accessibility, made by someone who knows what he wants, just not quite how to ask for it. Points given to the boss for asking. Points deducted from your wife for being too literal and not adequately translating from "non-techie speak".

    Okay, so the request is for an accessible page. Cool. First rule, do n

  • http://www.aarp.org/ [aarp.org]


    looks pretty normal, but then again, I'm gettin old...

  • I have a laptop with a 15 inch screen running at 1600 X 1200. When I got it I had to get out a microscope and adjust windows settings and IE (don't even start with that shit, i don't want to hear it) settings to get the fonts to a readable size. But when i go to some web site that use CSS to keep the space between each line of characters i get pissed off. When the browser adjusts the font size but not the space between all the words are on top of each other. This results in a page I can't read, or I shr
  • It's simple: adhere to web standards. There is nothing to be done about making big fonts or using graphics over text as some other idiot suggested. Use strict XHTML and use pure CSS to layout it out and control appearance. Here's why.

    When you develop by web standards, which also implies separation of content from structure, you get content which is marked up based on what it is and not what it should look like. You never have any guarantee as to what size, shape, or color your content is going to appe

  • I've got a nice big flat-panel monitor with natural resolution of 1280x1024. After too damned many of those "artsy cool" sites (even business/news sites!) stuffing the font size to 6px tall, I changed konqueror settings to minimum 10pt, medium 16pt, and life is much better.

    My rules:

    1) NEVER NEVER NEVER hard code the font size. You are teh suck if you do this.

    2) Try to include buttons or graphics with in the previous rule. It does no good that your 6px font size is not created with [small][/small], but

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