Font Size Switchers – Are they a good idea?

Example of a Font Switcher

It’s not uncommon these days to see font size switchers (and other style switchers) on websites.  They certainly make the task of increasing font sizes a bit less cumbersome.  But, from an accessibility standpoint, do you add any value?  I’d say that’s a discussion open for debate.

On the plus side, it makes it easier for less browser-savvy visitors to increase font sizes.  It eliminates the need to track down the options in the browser that lets you change the font size to suit your viewing preference.  We tend to add a font-switcher to sites that are targeted toward an older demographic – one that is not always comfortable or aware of all the features available to them in their browser software.  This makes it more of a usability feature than an accessibility feature.

From an accessibility standpoint, does a font switcher add value?  Most likely not.  To a person using a screen reader, it adds an extra element to wade through creating unnecessary auditory clutter to a page.  For someone using a screen magnifier, a font switcher is just redundant.  If you’re a user that doesn’t rely on any assistive technology, size switchers add an unnecessary visual element and can detract from the more important content on a site.

Before you add a font size switcher to your site, consider your audience.   If it will make browsing your site easier for a good portion of your visitor, then go ahead and add one.  If not, save that space for other information that’s more useful to your visitors.