MS Forum Text Size

by cdwise 6. May 2009 00:28

Why 67% font size? Usually when I see something like that it is because the person responsible did so because they believed that 67% was the magic number where all browsers showed text as the same physical size. The idea behind this approach is that you set a base font size then scale items in ems from that. While I think this is an over controlling approach that still allows font sizes to scale in IE using Text > Size > Larger it is a reasonable approach.

 However, the only way this works well is if you then scale every element on the page to a reasonable size. Let’s do some math so you can see what I’m talking about.

Default font size without any scaling is 12pt or 16px on both Windows and OS X systems. So when you do the math you get 8pt or 10.72 (which may be rounded down to 10px). Now if you are on a high resolution screen that is the equivalent of 4.5-5pt print. Not something comfortable for most to read. Even on a “normal” screen 10pt text is the smallest you should use for text that is comfortable to read for more than say a menu item. So if you use 67% as the page level default to get the equivalent of 10pt type you would need to use 1.25em for body text.

So what does MS do? They use 67% with no multiplier or other scaling for body text.

How do I know this?

Because this morning I noticed that the font seems smaller than normal when I went to http://social.expression.microsoft.com/forums/en-us/web/threads/ and discovered that the text seems smaller than before. So I opened it in the page in Expression Web and used its excellent CSS tools to see what is being applied.

So why didn’t MS scale the text so something more readable?

Your guess is as good as mine.

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Accessibility | Expression Web | Web Design

Why I Hate the MS Expression Web Forum

by cdwise 15. January 2009 00:55

Let me be clear I like, really like Expression Web but the Microsoft forum application used for Expression Studio programs, MSDN and TechNet is the absolute worst forum I have ever had the misfortune to use. Let me explain just why I say that:

The url: http://social.expression.microsoft.com/forums/en-us/web/threads/  Expression Web is a web design application there is nothing "social" about it. The use of "social" in the url for a program support forum means that the forum itself is blocked by many corporations who do not want their employees being "social" at work. Government employees are also blocked according to people I know who work for various state agencies. Bad as this is for Expression Web Microsoft uses the same "social" subdominan is used for MSDN and TechNet -developer and IT support venues.

  1. If the subdomain used to host these forms wasn't enough of a problem you must log in via Live to actually post or have your filters remember what you have old have not seen before. While in theory this should not be a problem the number of times I and others have had to dump cookies to get logged in properly demonstrates otherwise.
  2. Speaking of log in issues on multiple ovations I have been on the Expression Web form with my name shown as logged in but with no reply button and the upper right corner hardy a login link, sigh.
  3. Then there is the whole "Ajax" reply experience. Forget using the forum if you happen to be using:
    1. A screen with 800 PX or less maximum browser widely. the submit button is off-screen, resizing the text or using IE's zoom won't change that either. I've tried 75% which makes the forum text try but still leaves the subnet button off screen.
    2. A mobile device like an iPhone or iPod touch. Sure you can read the forum and you can even trigger the reply form, what you cant to is trigger the onscreen keyboard to write your reply. Trying to access on my AT&T Tilt I gave up when all the lode was a text based semblance of the masthead writ sign in links and the footer of the page. Both of these issues I can only speculate as being caused by the jargonizes used by the forum. Talk about serious accessibly issues.
  4. Oh and if you only have a limited amount of time, forget it. I'm running Vista on an Intel 9600 based laptop with 4 gig of ram and 2 gig of "turbo" memory. I'm also connected on a 5mps connection but between the time I click the submit button and the time it takes to actually post a response I can count to 10.
  5. Visitors who are not "regulars" sometimes end up posting their question multiple times either because they don't see responses (they frequently expect their questions to be answered by Microsoft support tech and within minutes) or because they can't find their original post.
  6. Regulars get frustrated because their bookmarks fail to load the forum every time (see the things I've had to do below in the last month to be able to access the forum) or because it is so slow and painful to use. Not to mention that there is no FAQ that would answer so many of the posts.

In the last month to even use the MS Expression forum to read or reply to posts I have had to:

  1. Delete all Microsoft cookies
  2. Delete all cached JavaScript files
  3. Using my favorites bookmark received error code 503, At refresh and then been able to get to the site.
  4. Have at least a 14 hour period when no new posts were being displayed including ones I just made for to test it new posts were going though at all. (Post showed but only when the post was sent in thread view, not in forum thread list for another 2-4 hours.) Some people could see new posts IF they changed
  5. filters every refresh.

I've more or less given up on the idea of Microsoft continuing with NNTP and newsgroups or creating a viable mail list/non-forum based community.

So what I really want to know is why with so many good community building forums and applications out there Microsoft is building its own and doing such a piss poor job of doing so. Solutions such as Community Server a are built using Microsoft technology and even the very first version I used was miles ahead of the current version of the Ms Forums. The current Community Server version is light years ahead. So why doesn't Microsoft buy a license?

What do you think?

In the past I have condemned posters who post on Microsoft newsgroups for the sole purpose of driving traffic to their own privately hosted forums and mail lists. For that reason I have never promoted the forums here, Google, Yahoo or even Microsoft Live groups  on the Microsoft forms or newsgroups. Now I an reconsidering that policy as I would welcome just about any such venue that could create a thing community.

If you know of one, please let me know.

Our next Live Meeting is tentatively scheduled for Jan 27, 2009 at 10 a.m. CST. Your topic suggestions would be appreciated.

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