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Web typography is the use of fonts in websites, blogs, and other online media. Fonts are the style of letters that appear on a page. Typography is important because it’s the unifying artistic element of a website. Good web typography is subtle; bad web typography is gaudy, unattractive, and will detract from the perceived value of a website and its content.

Mediocre web typography will not add or subtract from the content on the web. Excellent web typography can not only add value to the entire website, but it can also boost value in the eyes of the reader. Consider the infinite amount of times you see text on the web: headlines, subtitles, ads, blog posts, graphics, logos, and content. This makes you appreciate how crucial good web typography is to a website, blog or brand.

The Basics of Web Typography

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There is more to it than just choosing standard fonts and slapping them up on your website. The web has unique characteristics which are different from say, print media. Print media is on paper, and is almost always perceived the same way by anyone looking at it.

Online media gets complicated, because not everyone will view the same website exactly the same way. There are different screen sizes, resolutions, and mobile devices. Web media also has the unique ability to be changed by the viewer. A person can increase the font of a text they are reading, which can change the layout and the design effect that a typographer had in mind.

When designing a website or blog, one has to think about:

  • Readability
  • Size
  • Contrast
  • Colors

Readability is how easy it is to read a font. Some fonts are easier to read than others. Sizes need to be large enough to read, but not too large that it takes too much space. Colors on a screen are illuminated by light, therefore contrast is important. Not only can poor contrast make text hard to read, but it can cause eye strain. Black text on a white background is the best contrast. Finally, colors and color psychology can be used to create beauty or evoke emotion. For more information regarding color psychology, check out this article: Color-psychology-psychologica-effects-of-colors

Why is Web Typography Important?

There are many reason why web typography is important, but one of the biggest reasons is branding. A brand unifies the design with the message and image of the person, service, place, business or product.  The branding argument is an easy one to make. There are international corporations who are branded so well, that anyone who does not speak the language of that brand’s home country can identify it.

Web typography, font and typeface are part of that brand. If the font was changed, it would erode the brand’s image as unstable, or even unsightly. So, how a font or typeface is used is almost as important (if not more) than colors, graphics, and images.

Many website owners will get a logo and think that they’ve achieved a brand. Yet having a logo without designing the rest of the website, including web typography, to match the the logo is like having a head without a body. If the logo has text that is creative, but would not be used well as web content, then the designer has to find a font that will complement the logo and boost the image of the brand in the eyes of the target market.

Now, seeing how important web typography is not only to the design, but also the brand, what does good web typography do? First of all, it makes a site look clean, not cluttered. Cleanliness is a mantra which web designers should keep in mind when choosing a good font or typeface. Secondly, web typography should be consistent throughout the website, logo, graphics, and comments section (if any).

Finally, great web typography should encourage people to feel something that motivates them to identify with the website. Nostalgia, excitement, calm, confidence are all good emotions for a visitor to feel. Disgust, confusion, overwhelm are not good feelings, and they should be avoided as much as possible.

Tips for Good Web Typography

Here are some basic tips for good web typography:

Use space to make text easy to read – Websites where the letters are crunched together make it difficult for people to read the content. There must be space around all sides of the text, especially titles, so that it can be easily read.

Use headlines to break up text – It’s difficult for people to read text from top to bottom. Headlines, subheadings, bullet points and lists help break up the monotony of large amounts of text. To prove my point, you’re currently reading an article with subheadings. Headings can help a reader pick up where they left off or skip to a section. Making a website easy to read is a big plus for website design.

Allow room for your website to be scaled – Many people like to make the text bigger in their browsers so that they can read it easier. This is a good sign that a website has their reader’s attention. When choosing web typography, make sure it can be scaled up without destroying the design of the website.

Bottom Line

Web typography is one of the most important elements in website design. It keeps people interested, creates desired emotions, and adds to your brand.

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Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos. Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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