Typography on the Web


Crucial to the ethos of the web is providing information in a way which is easy to read. It sounds simple, but there are many design considerations which factor into this, one of the most obvious being: "Which font do I choose?"

Even though we are limited to a handful of fonts on the web, choosing the right one for the job can seem a frustrating task. Fonts not only need to legible but they also convey certain moods which affect the way people interpret the words and concept they represent.

So when you're creating a new website there's clearly no right font. You've got to look at what you are trying to say, the identity or brand and incorporate a font appropriate for the design.

What types of font are there?

Although there are many classifications for fonts we generally think of two kinds: Serif and sans-serif. Serif fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond etc) are the ones with the little "feet" on the bottom while sans-serif fonts (Arial, Verdana etc) are without the extra adornments. Generally speaking serif fonts have a more traditional old-fashioned feel, and a sense of history attached to them, while sans-serif fonts have a more modern, contemporary look.

It is often thought that in print serif fonts are more legible, while on screen sans-serif fonts are more readable. Indeed the most common fonts on the web these days are sans-serif fonts like Arial and Verdana, but that's not to say the serif fonts can't and shouldn't be used.

Lets take a look at the most popular fonts and how they can be tweaked for maximum legibility with the help of CSS.

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