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Strategic insights
New Minimum Font Size

Written by on November 24, 2005

The good people of Microsoft User Experience and Microsoft Typography have found that the minimum font size used on computer screen is too tiny for modern computer displays. The absolute minimum size used to be Tahoma 8pt (comparable to 11px on Mac OS X or on the web).

But, as the average screen display has moved from 640x480 to 1024x786 (and above) the font has simply become illegible for most people. Evidently, this is caused by the average screen resolution has increased more rapidly than the use of larger displays. It is a problem that has become profound on most laptops, and noticeable on many desktop systems.

To fix this Microsoft has developed a new font - Segoe UI (pronounced, "SEE-go"), and changed the minimum from 8pt to 9pt. But, that is not all. The new font has also been designed specifically for ClearType, and has been given a more human appearance than Tahoma.

You should care too

In May 2004, I wrote an article about the minimum font size you could use on the web. With this, that article, and my recommendation has changed.

If you are creating a website, web application or a regular application, you should actively consider using a larger font-size - based on this new knowledge about user experience vs. computer displays.

In Minimum Font Sizes I recommended that you; "Make you body font-size 70% (the exact same as 11px Lucida/Tahoma), then you can use em's to size everything else..."

Now you should use:

  • Base CSS font size: 76% (used to be 70%)

This is comparable to:

  • 12px Arial
  • 11px Verdana
  • 12px Tahoma (Windows pre-vista default font)
  • 12px Lucida Grande (Mac OS X Default font)
  • 12px Segoe UI (Windows Vista default font)

More information:

Related to:

See Also:

  • Type & Layout - Are you communicating or just making pretty shapes (The Worsley Press, 2005)

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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