GOV.UK typography scale to be made more accessible

The typography scale in the GOV.UK Design System is to be made more accessible for users and service teams. 

The GOV.UK Design System team has announced plans to update the typography scale so that the words shown across all government services are as readable as possible for all people and types of devices. The updated scale will also ensure that text looks consistent across all services on GOV.UK.

The typography scale was introduced in 2012 and gives service teams a standardised set of font sizes, which they can use to style headings, paragraphs and other pieces of text. It was last updated in 2018. 

The Design System team have decided to implement several changes - to come into effect in 2023 -  having received the following feedback from service teams: it’s no longer standard for smaller screens to use a smaller font size than on a desktop, as this negatively impacts those with visual impairments, and smaller font sizes - 14px and below - are bad for accessibility. 

The goal is for the new typography scale to be accessible to as many users as possible. For this reason, the Design System team used the font size guidelines recommended by the British Dyslexia Association, which advises not to go below 12pt - the equivalent to 16px. 

In light of this, there will be four specific changes to the values in font scale: removing 14 on the font scale, setting 16 on the font scale to not drop to 14px on small screens, setting 19 on the font scale to not drop to 16px on small screens and reviewing all the line heights for all possible font sizes. 

The team will also update the size of its typography classes having identified issues with size inconsistency. For example, headings, legends and labels will all display typography scale value 36 when they use the “l” suffix. 

“It is possible to resize web pages built using GOV.UK Frontend, and therefore possible to bypass the smaller font sizes, but this causes more work for service teams who have to make sure our styles work for their service and users,” Owen Jones, Senior Frontend Developer at Government Digital Service (GDS) said. 

The planned changes will mean service teams will not have to spend time on adjustments and will avoid using fonts that are too small, Jones added. 

The Design System team is currently testing its proposed implementations and following a period of review, will launch the typography scale changes in small releases across 2023.

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