Setting type on the Web is fundamentally different from setting type in print. In print typography, established guidelines help us to design readable documents. Printed text is normally set to between 10 and 12 points and is black on a white background. On the Web there is no such thing as 12-point type. Factors such as monitor resolution and browser settings influence the size at which Web type displays, and most of these variables are controlled by the user, not the designer.
Web documents are flexible, particularly text-based ones. While the Web designer creates a page with a certain look and feel, the Web user has the means to adapt that view to fit his or her needs and preferences. The extent to which the user can customize the page is directly related to the degree to which the designer relinquishes control over the look of the site. Designers must embrace the variability of Web text as opposed to trying to hold it in place—for example, by fixing its size or by using graphic text. When a designer takes inappropriate measures to retain control, Web access is compromised. Web typography is not about providing one optimal view of a document; its goal is to accommodate transformation.
The Web offers a one-size-fits-all solution to text documents. But unlike the ill-fitting “unisize” shirt or sweater, the Web can actually fulfill its promise because the Web designer does not have to divine some size that will miraculously fit all people. On the Web it is the user, not the designer, who determines the fit.