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Webmaster Articles > Web Safe Fonts

 

Find out how to choose the right typeface for your website.


Choosing the right typeface for your website copy is important, since it will affect the way your readers perceive your page (serious and formal, or friendly and casual). Aside from this, there are also important usability concerns. For example, some font types are more easily readable than others, and some are more widely available.

You want to choose font types that:

  1. fit the character of your site,
  2. are easy to read on a computer screen, and
  3. are widely available across many browsers and operating systems.

There are basically two types of fonts: serif and sans serif. Serif fonts are those that have fine cross-lines at the extremities of the letter. Sans serif ("sans" being the French word for "without") are fonts that don't have serifs. The most common serif font is probably Times New Roman. Arial is an example of a common sans serif font.

Let's go briefly through the most popular font types and evaluate their availability, readibility and character:

Arial:

*For Mac users, the equivalent of Arial is Helvetica.

Times New Roman:

* For Mac users, the equivalent of Times New Roman is Times.

Verdana:

Georgia:

Microsoft has also popularized two more fonts: Comic Sans Serif and Trebuchet.

Comic Sans Serif was launched with Internet Explorer verion 3 and mimics the hand writing used in comics. It is easy to read and is informal and friendly, but it is not considered appropriate for more serious, professional sites.

Trebuchet is another sans serif font, similar to Arial but with more character, although it can be difficult to read in small sizes.

Finally, we can mention Courier New, a serif font that was widely popular with old, mechanical typewriters, and that is now used only to present simulated computer code (if you need to present snipets of sample HTML code in your web pages, this is the font to use.

Therefore, from a usability perspective, the clear winner is Verdana. If you are inclined to use a serif font, Georgia is the best option. Arial remains a good option for specific parts of text, like headlines and titles, where a different font must be used and you can use larger sizes.

The way you specify your desired font in HTML is by using the <font face> attribute. The best practice is to specify several fonts instead of just one, putting the easiest to read first.

For example, if you want to use serif fonts, your HTML code will look like this: <font face="Georgia, Times New Roman, Serif">. That way, your visitor's browser will try to load Georgia first, but if it doesn't have it installed it will try the next one on the list, in this case Times New Roman; if it doesn't have it either, which is highly unlikely, the browser will choose the third option, which we have specified as any other serif font.

For sans serif fonts, the code will look like this: <font face="Verdana, Arial, Sans">.


About the Author
Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest, an internet marketing content site packed with useful articles and resources, and SEO Tutorial, where you can learn the basics of search engine optimization in four easy steps.

 
 

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