Size matters…but it’s what you do with it that counts

The page resive feature at the bottom right of the browser in Opera

I’m looking into doing some user testing of Opera with disabled and older users to try and establish what features we can enhance to help people when browsing.

Having put the question out over Twitter it was interesting that most of you came back with questions around zooming. So I thought I’d list a few of the things that I’ve been talking to people about recently and ask you what your thoughts were:

  1. What makes better sense,  full-page zooming or text-only zooming?
  2. Does zooming full pages present new usability problems that wouldn’t occur with text-only zooming?
  3. From a UI perspective how can we make zooming features more visible?
  4. How do we make zoom features more usable?
  5. Zooming can lead to people losing context, how can we  help people work around that?

I have thoughts and ideas on all of the above but I’m far more interested in hearing from you whether you use these features or not. I’d also prefer comments here rather than on Twitter so non-Twitterers can follow the dicussion and I can keep better tabs on feedback.

6 thoughts on “Size matters…but it’s what you do with it that counts

  1. 1. As a designer/developer I love elastic layouts because you can control the design without sacrificing the zooming. I generally prefer full page zooming as long as the design is being controlled by the developer, not the browser.

    2. Firefox & opera use full page zooming. I haven’t detected any usability issues, but I don’t like the way images are resized.

    3. We could use some real buttons on the status bar or/and an indication concerning zooming. This way a user would always see whether he has zoomed in or out and he would easily control zooming in general.

    4. A UI element can be controlled by a number of ways. Making it a standard might be an idea towards a friendlier web.

    5. I think we can’t do more about that. It has to do with the way each one perceives the web. I am pretty sure that by time people won’t lose context so easily.
    My mom started using the web with the help of my cousin in order to read my blog. She used page zooming. When she followed an external link she immediately realized she was somewhere else. She ‘s almost 60 and she hasn’t touched a mouse before. It won’t be that easy the next time, but it is a fair beginning.

  2. Makes sense as zooming is difficult to get right so has a good experience. I tried using on my Nokia N810 but got completely fed up with all the scrolling. Reflow seems the most likely answer and page zoom not so good then.

    Another question is how will it play with the platform zoom or AT zoom if being used as well. At least until the web becomes the only platform that matters 😉

  3. Yiannis, great feedback thanks. You mention “Firefox & opera use full page zooming. I haven’t detected any usability issues, but I don’t like the way images are resized”, could you tell me more about that?

    Steve, I like your question about how it works with platform and AT zoom, will have a look into that.

  4. Hey Henni,

    I have not had time to flesh this out (so I expect there to be some pretty obvious flaws and typos, so you’ll have to stick with me :S ) When looking at scaling it’s probably a good idea to take inspiration from existing document technologies. Acrobat Reader for example offers an excellent set of page scaling tools which would work well in the context of a web document. If something like this existed in the top bar of a browser it may add a lot of value to the user in a format they would already have some experience with. I’m sure there are better examples, but I love the quick fit to page buttons on the Reader interface.

    As for the UI of such elements, the way Opera and IE7 handle zooming from a tool in the lower right of the browser chrome is a bit counter intuitive as I assume most users will look for tools at the top of the application. If the user could then customise the browser UI from the installer they could then make the choice of adding/removing assistive features to the primary navigation (much like the way that Photoshop allows you to change the panel layout based on your primary tasks).

    In terms of the actual zoom functions I prefer text and image zooming over full magnification as I tend to build scaling sites. This allows me to build containers which grow and shrink in a manner I can predict and ensure that the design remains easily navigatable without worrying about broken layouts and scrolling issues. However, I don’t thing I’m in the majority and probably not best placed to comment, but, i perfer the way Opera and Firefox scale over the IE7 full zoom.


    It’s a complete aside but this presentation is a great example of how one generic product doesn’t always suit all people from Malcolm Gladwell

  5. Well I just zoomed in your website with Firefox and Opera.
    Both browsers treat the fixed layout just like it was elastic (the width forced to be wider and text was bigger of course). That doesn’t happen in e.g. Safari. Safari just makes the text bigger, which is normal since the layout is fixed.
    The thing is images became bigger as well each time I press Ctrl+. This doesn’t happen in real elastic layouts unless the designer has taken care of.
    Opera made the images look ugly. Especially the tiny ones e.g. your RSS feed icon. No designer wants this.
    Firefox treated the images differently. It made them bigger and more and more blurry. This is the first time I see Firefox blurs images but I prefer it this way instead of the Opera’s way.

    All in all as I designer I feel the browser decides for me and this confuses me.

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