When designing a website, big picture tasks like layout, color scheme, navigation, content, and imagery come to mind. However, there’s one extremely important aspect that rarely gets the attention it deserves: typeface. Your website’s typeface can make a big difference in the overall look and feel of the site – so don’t ignore it.
Why Typeface Matters
What is a typeface? If you find yourself asking this question, you aren’t alone. In essence, typeface is simply the design for a set of characters. According to Webopedia, “There are two general categories of typefaces: serif and sans serif. Sans serif typefaces are composed of simple lines, whereas serif typefaces use small decorative marks to embellish characters and make them easier to read.”
It’s difficult to overstate the value of typeface. If you look at President Obama’s 2008 campaign for the White House, his team spent a lot of time choosing the right typeface. They eventually settled on well-known Gotham for the main font, Liberation Serif for the body text, and Snell Roundhand for special text elements. When combined with other marketing materials and elements, the campaign team felt like these typeface selections played an important role in engaging the voters.
Since typeface is something that many of us don’t understand, we often resort to selecting the easiest solution. However, as you can see, typeface deserves much more attention.
4 Tips for Choosing the Right Typeface
Selecting the right typeface involves a number of different brand-specific elements and choices. When considering a typeface for your website, think about the following:
Have you ever visited a website that made it incredibly difficult to read the content being displayed? As a visitor, it’s extremely frustrating and confusing. Most people end up hitting the back button after a few seconds. With that being said, legibility should be a major concern when selecting a typeface.
“A legible font will usually be one that has conventional letterforms and design characteristics which are consistent,” says designer Bogdan Sandu. “These types of fonts are likely to be the ones which will deliver legible results.”
Consistency is very important. Websites without a specific typeface strategy end up using different fonts for different elements. This creates a website experience that’s highly fragmented. While your visitors may not be able to say, “This page is using Vollkorn and this page is using Open Sans,” they’ll subconsciously notice the differences and associate your brand with a lack of consistency.
As mentioned in the above example of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, pairing of typefaces matters. In most cases, a website will have two or three different fonts. Make sure they pair well together so the website experience is cohesive and seamless for all visitors.
One aspect that most people never consider when selecting typeface is leading. This is the space between the lines of text, which directly impacts readability. Bad leading can make a paragraph hard to consume, while good leading can make a terrible typeface digestible. Spend time studying different approaches to leading to find out what works best for your site.
Don’t Overlook the Small Details
In the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to overlook something as small as typeface. Designers and marketers often stress the importance of layout, color scheme, navigation, imagery, and content, but rarely mention typeface. Don’t let their unwillingness to discuss it prevent you from considering its value.
Think about the tips referenced in this article and find out how the right typeface can make all the difference.