Lately, I have been doing a lot of research on the web about fonts. Interestingly enough the rules in web design tend to follow a lot of the patterns as print design with a few key differences. However, the common theme that I kept finding was small font is bad. I decided to do some research on this because I have been a strong proponent of smaller fonts for quiet a while.
As it turns out having larger font size has very little to do with people’s eye sight. It has much more to do with characters per line.
“Anything from 45 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory length of line for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line(counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal. For multiple column work, a better average is 40 to 50 characters.” The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web – See more at: http://mikeyanderson.com/optimal_characters_per_line#sthash.UUg7rHxP.dpuf
This above rule of thumb is perfect for things that have static widths (i.e. books and other printed material). On the web screen widths change per device, per orientation, per screen size, screen resolution, and the list goes on. Design has long since stopped following this rule because there wasn’t really a good way to achieve a consistent character count per line. I fell into this trap as well. I designed to fit as much text in as small of an area as possible.
The web has changed a lot; especially the past 2-3 years with the advent of mobile browsing. We now have tools to combat issues like character count per line. Responsive Web Design (RWD) in particular solves this issue altogether. RWD is what allows websites to fluidly adjust its layout depending on screen size. We have previously used this tool for layout only (meaning, a two column layout becomes one column on mobile devices), however, we can also use RWD to adjust our font sizes so that as a screen gets smaller, the font gets smaller and on larger screens the font can be much larger to accommodate longer lines.
My opinion on the subject has changed dramatically from my research about this topic. All of our designs are going to start featuring larger font sizes across the board that adjust (just like our layouts) to the screen you happened to be viewing the site on.