Web typography is a golden age. An almost unlimited range of fonts is available to web designers, as well as great options for implementing them. We are spoiled, indeed.
All this variety is amazing. But it can also make tougher decisions when picking fonts. With such a huge ecosystem, how do you make the right choice?
While appearance is a key factor, the decision goes deeper. There are plenty of other things to consider. It all comes down to the typefaces that suit your needs. They can be exchanged later, but it’s less desirable to start on the right note.
With that in mind, here are some tips for choosing the right fonts for your website. Whether you are designing for yourself or your client, these factors should be part of the process.
Find Fonts That Match Your Message
Typography is a way to an end. It is used to convey a message or emotion and also establishes consistency across a brand.
However, this can be a major challenge for web designers. In some cases, we are only given a logo to use as the basis for the overall look. That’s not much to go on.
It’s much easier when a client has established a style guide. This allows us to step right and continue with the current brand identity.
But even without that data, typography can be obtained properly. Think about the intended audience for the site, content and content. Taken together, these factors should at least help put you in the right direction.
For example, if I know that children are the core audience of the site, there are likely to be some fun fonts. Similarly, if content is long – formable, readability and spacing are crucial.
The more you know about the project, the more informed your decisions will be.
Consider the Source
These days, there are many places to find great fonts. Whether it’s a recognizable name like Google or a small foundry – we have no shortage of creative options. But the source does not matter for a variety of reasons.
Font licensing is a big deal, because it determines where, how and how much font can be used. Some libraries, such as Google Fonts, are free to use in any type of project. This is a safe bet, provided the library has the styles you need.
Other sources can be more restrictive. For example, you could get a “free” font that looks perfect. But you may need to purchase a license to use it in a commercial project.
Still, others have limits based on the amount of traffic to your website. A busy site may mean that you pay dearly for access to fonts.
So, it’s worth doing a little research and getting comfortable with licensing before committing to a web font.
Local or Remote Hosting
How font is applied is part of its licensing – but it is also an important element in its own right.
It is very convenient to call fonts remotely via API. It is not without risk, however. The potential for downtime, privacy concerns, and degraded performance must all be weighed against the benefits.
Meanwhile, print hosting locally means a little more work in advance. If the foundry allows it, this will help you avoid some remote API traps. The disadvantage may be an increased load on your web server, so keep in mind file sizes and apply cache where possible.
There are pros and cons to each method of implementing fonts. Think about which one is best for your situation.
Accessibility and Readability
The fonts we choose have a big impact on accessibility. And we’re not just talking about people with disabilities (PWD). Poorly selected font can affect all users.
Ensuring a lot of accessible typography is about using your best judgment. Think about how to use font and test to make sure it is readable on different screen sizes and devices.
The safest options are usually basic serif and sans-serif fonts. Script fonts and displays may work well – but size is important. Attempting to use one of these fancy fonts on a small size or in a long text excerpt will result in a bad user experience.
This could be an area where designers and clients may conflict. So a discussion of the importance of accessibility should be at the top of your to-do list.
Making Audio Decisions About Web Typography
In some ways, it was easier to deal with back-end web typography when there were only a few browser-safe fonts. Choose one or two that make sense for your project and move on.
Choice makes decisions harder. But it’s much easier when you know what to look for. A helping hand should be available in the above circumstances.
Understanding the appropriateness of font for the branding, licensing and implementation of your project can significantly reduce options. And if a font pulls on accessibility, don’t be afraid to throw it out of the running.
Like almost everything in design, typography is about making sound decisions. Learn to do this consistently, and you will achieve excellent results.