Sliders on the Web

Browsing a site I'd never seen before, I saw a cool nod to accessibility: the site lets you make the size of the type in the main article bigger.



The control to do this is a miniscule Javascript slider.

So in order for their special font-size needs to be accommodated, users with those needs must acquire a tiny target that's 7 pixels in diameter, hold the mouse button down without moving of the target, drag it over by a few pixels without accidentally releasing the mouse button, and finally release the button when they're done.

And all that is after they've realized that thing can be clicked on and dragged.

And unlike a real, standard desktop UI slider widget, you can't click on an arbitrary point on the slider rail and make the slider jump to that spot. The only way you can change the font size is by sliding.

And the range of sizes is only a handful of discrete font sizes, not a continuous value (which is what sliders are good for).

And the target users for the grow-the-font feature are typically those who will have more problems dealing with small-target widgets and/or drag and drop.

And it's not keyboard-controllable the way a plain text link would be (you can't tab to it, and you can't move it with the keyboard).

That's a lot of "and"s, and just as many reasons why this is a bad design decision. This is nothing new--it's been known for ages that drag and drop is hard to perform and non-intuitive for certain actions. So why put a hard, unnecessary constraint into Web pages?

I don't know what made sliders in Web apps so popular in the past couple of years, but I really wish designers and developers would realize what a horrible widget they are. They're very difficult to acquire, maneuver and discover, and you can always replace them with an easier, more discoverable UI element.

Here are obvious suggestions that would take exactly the same amount of space on the screen and considerably less time to implement and debug, not to mention obviating the need for the slider JavaScript library to be downloaded with the page:

  1. icons of the letter A in different sizes, each mapped to a font size
  2. one big icon of the letter A with an up arrow next to it, and another with a down arrow next to it. Ideally the "shrink" A would be a little smaller than the "grow" A
  3. text links labeled "bigger font" and "smaller font"

Simple and standard usually win in my book; the burden of proof is always on the more complicated option.

No comments:

Post a Comment