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Fun with Fonts, Part 1

August 3rd, 2007 by Erick Beck

While it might seem a small issue, selection of which font to use on a web site is an important decision. It affects the layout of the site and can even change the emotional impact the viewer receives. It can also cause more arguments between web developers and designers than almost any other HTML element.

I’ll skip the whole serif vs. sans-serif issue for screen display. I think that one has been pretty well decided and most sites are published with a sans-serif primary font. The bigger questions that remain are font selection and font size.

In reality, these two questions are intrinsically bound together, as the choice of font family directly affects the size of the text display on the screen. This, then, makes selection of your primary font vitally important. One of the most common requests web developers get from the initial designer is to decrease the size of the text on the screen. Smaller “looks better” or is “more readable” or simply “takes up less space.” This, however, flies directly in the face of display control resting in the hands of the viewer. Even the fabulous and wonderful alistapart.com falls down here – on my screen I have to crank up magnification to at least 150% to read it. That isn’t good if you’re trying to keep readers on your site.

Rather than trying to adjust the size of the font, a better solution would be to change the font being used. I’m on vacation next week, but John will be following up on this concept with a look at several specific fonts to use and stay away from.

Friday, August 3rd, 2007 Miscellaneous
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