Sizing up web type

I’ve been thinking a lot about type on the Web lately. Not type that a designer sets in Photoshop and turns into an image. But type which can be selected, searched, indexed, and resized by the browser. Type marked up with tags like <p>, <h2>, or <cite>, etc.

As designers, we’re not usually comfortable leaving our type specs up to the naked browser/system defaults, which often render in Times New Roman (or “Times” on a Mac) at some size equivalent of 16-points. It used to be the ever-redundant <font> tag of bloated html markup sans-CSS. Now we control type in a more reusable object-oriented fashion by using font properties in our CSS declarations. We have nearly infinite control over margins, padding, positioning, foreground color, and background color.

So we’ve gotten smarter with the means in which we specify the look of our type. But as the use of CSS begins to permeate the Web, I wonder if this level of control we gain as designers and developers will benefit or harm the users who read our content on a regular basis. Bad choices in text presentation via CSS can cause more problems than the no-longer-missed <font> tag. More powerful tools in our toolbox may pose just as much danger as they offer benefit.