Typography in web design

Typography in web design

Tue 7th Jan 2014

If you are putting a document together to print it almost doesn't matter what font you choose, as long as it is readable because once it is printed off it will always appear consistently. Websites are a bit different, there are a variety of browsers that end-users might choose to use and different operating systems, not to mention the ever growing number of devices available and each of these can display fonts slightly differently.

Until very recently the choice of fonts available to use on websites was very restricted, you could only use fonts which you could rely on being installed on your end-user's computer. Given that there were two potential operating systems (Mac and PC) that your end-user might be using and the number of fonts available by default on both was very limited, you had few choices.

A common practice was to use images of text in order to use different fonts on websites but this created other issues - significant written content was lost as it was an image unreadable to search engines leading to various work arounds each with compromises.

More recently other methods of using fonts became available, fonts started to be designed for the web to appear and behave more consistently in conjunction with newer browsers which also became better at rendering text. The choice of fonts and font services that can now be used on websites is extensive, and continues to grow.

This has lead to a lot of website design becoming very typography driven with some beautiful results. Typography is an art in itself, it isn�t easy to get it right with tiny changes making huge differences to the feel of a website and crucially, usability. Using too many different fonts and styles within a font can make a page feel cluttered and hard work to navigate if too many elements are trying too hard to grab your attention. It is usually best restrict your font and style use for the benefit of your audience.

Many fonts are available only by subscription but there are plenty of free ones out there if you know where to look and the best thing is that you can easily download them and use them in print design and logo design too, so all of your promotional material looks consistent.

by Rachel Watson