On Browser Zoom…

“Zooming” a web browser was always weird to me. When you made everything bigger, it often broke the design. I also felt weird controlling the designer’s experience. I felt like I was selfishly imposing on their website, somehow.

And always zoom felt temporary to me – you zoomed in order to make a specific web page bigger, then went back to “normal.” It was an edge case.

But I recently discovered that Firefox retains zoom rates by domain, which means you can zoom a chronically small website and Firefox will remember that setting and only apply it to that specific website. When you navigate to another domain, you’ll be back to 100% (or whatever your setting was for that website).

This has been revelatory to me. I now have custom zoom settings for dozens of websites (I don’t even know what they are; I just “zoom to comfort” and Firefox remembers). It’s allowed me to increase the resolution on my screen for more real estate, because individual websites can be bigger.

What I’ve also found is that zooming a website today is less likely to break it. I’m not sure why this is. Are designers paying attention more to this? Are they testing at different zoom levels? Are new ways of coding HTML/CSS allowing more graceful zoom experiences?

This is all a little sobering, because it just means I’m getting older. But I’m glad I’ve come to appreciate how important the zoom feature is. It was always something “other people” used, but I now understand that the ability to zoom a website is simply another aspect of accessibility – one that I need at this point in my life, apparently.

Test for zoom, because some people will only view your website at a higher zoom level – that will be their everyday use case; they will always and forever view your content through that lens. If parts of your website break when zoomed, then you should fix that.

This is item #41 in a sequence of 42 items.

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