Viewport zooming – is it really that necessary?

If you disable viewport zooming in your responsive website you gain more control of the overall experience but at the same time you hinder users from pinch zooming. Is pinch zooming really that important for the majority of users?

You can¬†easily control if you should allow pinch zooming of your website and by adding the following meta tag to the HEAD of your website you simply remove that option. The user will simply not be able to pinch zoom on your website. You might notice that I’m one of those evil bastards that take advantage of that method.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=1.0">

Why do do this horrible thing to our beloved users?

Control. One important part of user experience is the control the environment so that navigation and other element behave as expected. I’ve witnessed several average users to pinch zoom by misstake and then not really being able to zoom out properly to find the navigation, or the menu links. The more you can control, the less options and configurations the user can do, the better the over all user experience get.

What about usability?

Many usability experts argue that this is a very bad choice to make as it might raise many obstacles for the user:

  • Text is too small to read
  • Images cannot be viewed properly because they are too small
  • Links cannot be pressed because they are too small

As I fully agree on that the above can happen if you are sloppy. I also argue that the above will not happen if you put some effort into making a good if not great responsive design that take text size and images in to account.

How about users with impaired vision?

In iOS you can change the default text size for all apps that supports dynamic text. Facebook and LinkedIn are two of several apps that doesn’t support this. The LinkedIn app also doesn’t support pinch zooming and has a font size smaller than most average websites.

Image of Tiny text from the LinkedIn app versus my responsive blog.
Tiny text from the LinkedIn app versus my responsive blog.

How can we be so upset and demand that we should be able to zoom every website when we are perfectly content with not being able to zoom any single app?

The only reason we we’re not raging against this must be because we don’t see the need for pinch zooming in apps. The text must apparently be readable anyway.

Conclusion

Let’s not be dogmatic about this. Should we always disable pinch zooming for the users? Of course not. But we shouldn’t either always allow it. It always depend your target audience and how you design and build your website.

Do user test early on. If you notice that the users pinch zoom to read the text or to view the images or click links you might need to increase the font size and line height.

If pinch zooming is such a deal breaker for everyone, we should be able to pinch zoom in all apps as well (we aren’t, and we don’t see anyone complaining about it).

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