Caught On The Web | The Ultimate Answer | All Fonts Are Not Created Equal

All Fonts Are Not Created Equal

What you see is not what they see

Fonts are not created equal on the web. Over the years I have had many clients question why the fonts they have chosen for use on their website, do not appear the same when they view their site from another computer. As you should know by now, what you see on your computer may not be what another person sees on their computer. Why? Because each computer has their unique set of preferences, programs, hardware, software and general configurations. Simply put, there are only a set number of fonts that are universal to both the MAC and the Windows (PC) operating system. That is to say, when you are on a MAC and you choose one of the following fonts for your website, someone running Windows will also see the same font just as you had intended.

To Serif or Not to Serif?

Without going into the history of typography, you should be aware of the difference between a serif font, and a sans serif font. “A serif font is the type which has the little details at the end of the edges of each letter. The tails and strokes that make it appear like the letters create a line on their own. For example, newpapers use the serif style because it aids the reader in following along the text with their eyes. A sans serif font are those fonts which are without those tails and strokes. “Sans” means “without” in French.

Everyone has an opinion on which fonts are easier to read on the computer screen or in print. Traditionally, serif fonts have been used in printed text, and sans serif have been used on web pages. I suggest the font selection is based on the amount of text. If you have long and wide columns a serif font maybe more considerate for your reader. If you have shorter width columns, a sans serif seems just fine. When in doubt try to read your text off of your monitor (and a friends monitor) outloud. If you lose your place while reading, maybe you should try a different font style.

The above box should give you an idea of how sans serif and serif are viewed, and the names of the fonts on the different platforms. Each row is referred to as a font family.A font family contains similar fonts known by different names depending on the operating system. If your first font choice is unavailable, the browser translating your web page will search for the next font in the family as indicated. If you do not indicate a font family, the browser default font will be selected. The default for most browsers is Times New Roman. You can find out which font is your default font by going into your Tool menu on your browser and looking for Internet Options, and selecting Fonts.

Technical Trouble with Unintended Fonts

Creating a web page with a fancy font may look great, but will have unexpected results. First, while you think your page may look like the greatest page, visitors to your site who do not have that font installed will just see Time New Roman (default font). Second, having a different font than intended may also change the length of a paragraph or page, and can disrupt a layout completely if not careful. Finally, an unintended font may also alter (some say ruin) a page visually if the font style does not match the overall sense of style and direction of the overall design. It will just look wrong and out of place with everything else.

To work with a special font that you really want on a site there are several options you choose to get what you want, and still have a consistent working font. Once you have chosen a selected font that is not one of the universal fonts you can do one of the following.

Important: Only use the chosen font for small phrases, headings, banners, buttons or other accents. Specialized fonts may be difficult to read as a paragraph.

Picture Your Font

Create .gif’s (.bmp’s or .jpg’s) of the headers, buttons, banners etc… By creating a picture of your font you are providing a picture of your text. The font will be captured in a graphic element that will be seen consistently on every computer system.

Flash Your Font

Create what you want with the font you have chosen inside a Flash element. You will need the Adobe / Macromedia Flash program. The font is encapsulated inside the Flash program and will play your chosen font no matter the computer.

Embed Your Font

For the more advanced, or adventurous web author, you can download the Web Embedding Fonts Tool (WEFT) from Microsoft directly. This program will enable you to basically send the font of your choice with your web page. When a page is viewed by a system that does not have your font installed, the font sent with your web page will quietly install the font on the users system and viola. I do suggest this method is for the more experienced page builder, as there are many facets to embedding that must be considered to make this work seemlessly. However, it is an alternative for your consideration. Using this technique will also provide you with more freedom to alter the paragraph text.

Fonts can be tricky, but if you keep it simple, and use what you know, you should be fine.{jcomments on}

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