Web designers spend a lot of time looking at imagery and considering how a page looks, while content creators think about the words. In the middle of this, and sometimes a little forgotten, is the typography – but this is the glue which holds a website project together.
In a recent article in The Guardian, journalist Hannah Jane Parkinson argued that fonts have personalities: “Fonts are a huge part of our lives, because words and numbers are. Even if you think you don’t have a favourite font, I can assure you that you absolutely do. Even if you think there is no font that would cause you to cross a road or avoid eye contact on the bus, there is. We are wedded to fonts; they work their way into our hearts and minds by either stealth or, of course, design.”
She does point out that there is a difference between fonts and typefaces but prefers to refer to fonts (a font is a specific iteration of a typeface, such as bold or italic).
Some typefaces simply don’t look right in particular situations. For example, Comic Sans MS is, as the name suggests, a ‘fun’ typeface and probably not one which might be chosen by a more formal business, such as a law firm. Alternatively, a hip pop-up cafe will use a completely different typeface to a cool City-based bar.
Strangely, and it’s difficult to know exactly why, people do find that they have favourite typefaces or, at least, ones they simply don’t like and ones which they are drawn to.
If you’ve got as far as having a website created, then your organisation may well already have some brand guidelines or typefaces which you use or you may have had specifically designed for you. If you haven’t, then it’s important to think about the product or service which your business is offering and also your audience. If you are focused on an older audience, then trendy typefaces in myriad colours probably won’t draw them in.
Perhaps have a look online at some typefaces you like – ideally ones which suit your organisation. There are ways to copy and paste a few words and using an online tool quickly work out which typefaces match, or almost match, the one you like.
Don’t get carried away though. When it comes to websites, less is certainly more. Don’t mix and match different typefaces across your website, as it will look messy and confusing and potential customers will not be able to work out the personality you’re trying to convey. If you still fancy some variety, you could select up to three different ones – ideally from the same family - but keep them for different areas of text – such as headlines, introduction and body copy.
The text you select for the body copy of your website should be easy to read, as people will soon click away from your website if it isn’t. For this reason, perhaps select a clean design which isn’t too arty. Also make sure that the font you chose is scalable. Some typefaces are easy to read when they are large but not as much when they are condensed or simply smaller.
The typeface you chose also needs to be web browser friendly – as some fonts are faster to download than others and you don’t want customers to click away because a page hasn’t loaded.
Also, don’t be tempted to muddle your website with a variety of fonts – bold and italics – or even capitals. Again it will seem messy. Bear in mind too, that using capitals will probably just make it look as if you are shouting (dip into the Twitter feed of Donald Trump for an example).
On top of all this and what a lot of people don’t realise or take into account is whether you’ll need a licence to use the typeface you’ve selected to use on your website – and how much that particular licence will cost, as it varies. It’s worth having that conversation with your brand designer before they chose some beautiful fonts – as you might find that those particular ones are expensive to use on your website.
Web fonts are embedded into a website’s code, which means it will sit on a server and viewed with each page view. Some web licences work on a per view basis, while others have no traffic restrictions (these may work on time limits instead).
Talk to us at Lake Solutions if you want to know more.