“What’s in a font?” we could paraphrase Shakespeare and it is quite a legitimate question. First of all, they are the basis of all sorts of writing done on a computer. Secondly, they are in a wide variety, so it is easy to get lost among various styles and pick the wrong one.
What exactly is a wrong font? If you are looking at a block of text where the letters are too thin or too thick, too close together, or the line spacing either too wide or too tight, soon your eyes will become tired and you will stop reading that text. This means that the author picked a bad font for the text.
The Importance of Fonts in Business
In the business world, where companies are trying to stand out and individualise themselves by branding anything, including the font used for official documents or marketing materials, fonts are really important. They can become a part of the company image (for reference, you can recognise brands like Coca-Cola and Apple by the font they use) and they can send your customers non-verbal signals strengthening the written message.
Can fonts truly influence the way people feel about a piece of text they are reading? According to a study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they can. In the study, people were shown cards with various texts written in “good” and “bad” fonts. The good fonts made people more relaxed and helped them remember the text they read with a superior accuracy compared to the texts written in bad fonts, which also made them tense.
You definitely want your potential customers to remember your marketing messages and to be relaxed while reading. So, how do you pick the right font for your website?
- Find a Good Combo
Websites rarely have one single font for all the content, titles and menus. In practice, a combination of two, maximum three, fonts are used. When you discuss with the designer working on your website, decide on the font combo from the beginning. This decision will influence the rest of the design (more on this later). Here are a few great combinations of fonts:
- Helvetica and Garamond
- Gothic Bold and Sabond
- Antique Olive Bold and Chaparral
- Pick a Flexible Font
What is a flexible font? It is a font which looks great and is easy to read both in small and large size. It is also legible in regular, bold and italic. In short, you can format it in many ways to enhance the meaning of your content and the font is still easy to read, without causing eye fatigue.
What makes a flexible font? There are three key characteristics to examine:
- Tracking/Kerning – this term defines the space between letters as you type words. Fonts with a small tracking/kerning are problematic, especially when you use them in bold. It could lead to inadvertent humours when you type words such as “click” or “flicker”;
- Serif vs. Sans Serif – some fonts have tiny lines at the end of each stroke. These are the serif fonts and are inspired from Roman lettering engraved in stones (this is why they are also called Roman fonts). Sans Serif fonts do not have these lines at the end of the stroke and they can become difficult to read in italic or small size.
- Select a Font in Line with the Website Design
A website must be an organic structure where everything looks in place. This means that your fonts must be in harmony with the design. For example, you would not use a medieval or handwriting typeface for the official website of a Sci-Fi film, right? In the same manner, you must select a font which integrates well into the design and gives the same impression: of professionalism and dependability, of a family-friendly company, of innovative thinking, etc.
- Always Trade Off Creativity for a Sensible Font
If it looks too creative to be easy to read, it is not the font for your website. You could probably use it for your logo, but not for everyday content. In picking a good font, keep in mind that your audience is made up of people who may or may not have a perfect eyesight and could get tired after reading just a few lines of text.
Last, but not least, never pick fonts such as Comic Sans or Papyrus for your website. These fonts were never a good idea, not even in comic books.