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Using Fonts On The Web

One of the most common questions I get asked as a website developer is “what font should I be using for my site?” There is no definitive answer to this question unfortunately but if you follow a few simple rules and consider simple design conventions then you’ll hopefully be somewhere along the right lines.

I’ll first tell you a little bit of information about fonts in general. I’m sure most of you have heard of the terms “serif” and “sans-serif” fonts.

A “serif” type font includes little projections from each of its letters giving the text an old fashioned style. These fonts have been common practice for literature for several generations and “Times New Roman” seems to be the most well-known. This is a popular font that was used as a standard default font on Microsoft’s software packages for several years.


ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ – The red fox ran over the brown hill

A “sans-serif” font is basically a font without the projections on each of its letters. The most well-known font of this type is “Arial”. This type of font is seen to be less formal than “serif” fonts but they can arguably be said to be easier to read on computer screens due to their curvy nature.


ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ – The red fox ran over the brown hill

One of the first considerations that has to be thought about when considering which font to use is “what type of site are you producing?” If the site is a being created for a corporate company or any kind of government agency, then the usual convention is to stick to a font such as “Arial”. This is chosen by many blue-chip companies due to its clean appearance and its readability in small sizes.

If for example, you were running a small business and wanted to use a slightly different font, some of the popular alternatives are:

Verdana – Example:

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ – The red fox ran over the brown hill

Tahoma – Example:

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ – The red fox ran over the brown hill

Example – Georgia

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ – The red fox ran over the brown hill

Trebuchet MS – Example:

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ – The red fox ran over the brown hill

One of the main considerations that has to be taken into account when choosing a font for use on the web is its compatibility with standalone computers. I would definitely recommend clients to avoid fonts that are not packaged with the main operating system as their main font. If the visitor to the website does not have the font, then a font-substitution will take place and could alter the layout of the site. In my experience, it’s not worth taking the risk and you are better off using one of the fonts suggested above. One way of including custom fonts is to save the heading that includes the custom font as an image and then including the image on the page. We wouldn’t recommend this to clients though as a search engine would not be able to read the text contained within the image and this isn’t the best for the SEO of the site.

Another key question that clients ask is “what is the standard font-size of a website?” This is another difficult question to answer as there is no correct answer. It is important to follow accessibility guidelines when creating websites to make it as easy as possible for the visitor to read information on your site. I’d recommend that the font used for the bulk of the main text on a site be between 10-14px. Anything below 10px is difficult to read in a bulk amount of text and not recommended. This size font can be used for items such as privacy policies in footers but these are items that should be included in sites but not the main focus of the site.

Hopefully this has given you a little bit of information for you to consider when choosing a font for your website. Fonts are fairly specific to the type of site you wish to create, and can help create a unique impression to visitors when they go to the site.

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