You’re Still Using 12px Font Size!?!

Back on 2/24/2012 we examined emerging standards for web font sizes and it was a surprise to some folks that using 16px (or approx. 1em) for standard body font was recommended. Nonetheless, it is still surprising to encounter so many performing arts org websites that rely on 12px standards.

All of the following screencaps were taken on 5/23/2013 and are from the first four orchestra websites that came to mind. Each one had a standard body font of 11px or 12px and even though I knew a number of orchestra websites were using tiny font sizes, it was still surprising to see 100 percent of the initial sampling fall into that category.

font size sampling

But when it comes to readability and overall favorable user experiences, those are dangerously small sizes (details for why are in the 2012 article). Recent studies indicate that 16px is most common with 14px not far behind, but even 18px is used twice as much over 12px.

There’s No Better Time Than The Present

onlineIn an ideal arrangement, you already have direct control over typography settings such as the font size for body text and headlines and can, therefore, begin experimenting with sizing up and out of the 12px pit.

If you don’t, you need to begin working on your web provider to get this change going. If they make the task sound like moving mountains then it’s high time to consider finding a new provider.

Simply put, you aren’t going to catch up by going slower and web standards change at an increasing pace so you need to be in a position to have enough flexibility and control to make changes as needed.

For more on this topic, head over to Jan Constantin’s excellent case study article, Typographic Design Patterns And Current Practices (2013 Edition), at SmashingMagazine.com where you’ll find a wealth of additional info on trends for headlines, typefaces, line heights, and a bevy of additional typographic treats.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on “You’re Still Using 12px Font Size!?!

  1. Maybe this will inspire all the computer based composers and music publishers to move to a bigger font as well. (or as the arrangers in my big band call it – “Geezer Font”)

  2. That’s a great topic in and of itself with regard to the painfully slow transition to all digital typesetting. At this rate, I’m not certain it will happen even by the end of my lifetime.

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