As a website developer who specialises in CSS-based designs, I obviously hang around (i.e. read blogs of, participate in mailing lists with) other like developers. One of the legitimate concerns many—if not all—of them have is the relatively less support Internet Explorer has for CSS 2.1. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the current version of IE is nearly three years old, while every other popular, standards-compliant browser has had a major release within the past year.

A common issue such designers have is users having the ability to resize webpage text to meet their level of reading comfort. All modern browsers have resizing capabilities; however, some have more powerful capabilities than others do. For example, IE can only size text to five sizes (smallest, smaller, medium, larger, and largest) while Opera can resize text and images from 20% to 1000% of the original size. As well, IE can only resize relatively sized text (i.e. em, pt, cm, in, %), while other browsers can resize even absolutely sized text (i.e. px, pt, cm, in).

Given the common and predominant disapproval of IE’s relatively low support for CSS 2.1, many people often attribute IE’s inability to resize absolutely sized text as a bug. Some even go as far as saying IE is broken in this regard. I strongly disagree with this notion.

IE is not broken. It does exactly what the designer tells it to do. If a designer specifies s/he wants a font sized based on 12 pixels then it renders the fonts based on 12 pixels. In actuality, it is the other browsers that are “broken” since they incorrectly render the text in an effort to allow users to resize text.

I repeat, IE is not broken.

That being said, pixel-based text is a bad practise for copy. Any user coming to your website should be able to resize at least the copy text. This ability should not be hampered at all, and should be independent of what browser s/he uses. Ideally, all text should be resizable, and images should not be used to solely present text.

In conclusion, the inability to resize text in Internet Explorer is not the fault of Microsoft engineers; it’s the fault of inconsiderate website developers.

About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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