rems and ems, and why you probably don’t need them
David Gilbertson
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Technical considerations aside, I find rems have two practical benefits over pixels.

  1. The web is by and large a text medium. Relating sizing to text gives designers and developers a more direct connection to the relative scale of elements on a page (e.g, 1rem is “text size”, 3rem is “pretty big text”, 35rem is “compact paragraph length”, etc.). When we’re mostly trying to size text and fit text in boxes, a text based unit conveys proportion without the need for mental conversion.
  2. Pixels encourage fiddling. Anyone that works with designers is familiar with the “try it one pixel bigger. Now smaller. Now bigger” conversation (I admit I was guilty of this in my past life as a designer). Pixel fiddling wastes time, with no significant benefit to the end user or business. Rems are chunky units — they naturally guide people away from minute adjustments. In companies I work with we usually say “let’s stick to 0.25 increments for sizing and spacing unless it’s a really special case”. The time and mental energy saved with this rule have been more than tangible, especially when paired with elimination of modular scale or sizing variables.
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