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What's the Best Font For Your Website? It's Complicated

What's the Best Font for Your Website?

You’re a web design expert with an easy-to-use site that’s optimized for mobile and features a ton of great, consistently-updated content.

But have you ever stopped to think about the font on your site? Could the typeface you’re using be turning off readers before they even start digging into your blog or moving through your conversion funnel?

Whether you consider yourself an online calligrapher or you think Georgia and Arial mean the state and the Disney princess, here’s what the experts have to say about using fonts online…

The Dilemma: Serif V. Sans Serif

Let’s go back to that Georgia and Arial example. Georgia and Arial are two different types of fonts, with Georgia being serif and Arial being a sans serif.

Serifs are those small curly flourishes on each letter, often called feet, while sans serif are letters with clean lines.

Examples of frequently-used serif fonts include the aforementioned Georgia, along with Times New Roman and Cambria. Along with Arial, popular sans serif fonts include Calibiri, Verdana, and Helvetica (a typeface so ubiquitous they made a movie about it). Which works better for your site?  Conventional wisdom says sans serif. Here’s why:

The Case for Sans Serif
It is generally agreed that serif is the better font for print. Some say this is because serif fonts were used for the Dick and Jane books, which were the first things many baby boomers read. Others say it’s because the decorative flourishes make individual letters more distinctive and therefore easier for our brains to recognize quickly.

But even though you’re reading, the web isn’t print. It has a much lower resolution than print, which makes small serif characters, with their complex shapes, more difficult to read. Therefore, a serif type is generally not recommended for the web.

On the other hand, we all spend half our day online reading sans serif text in the form of emails and tweets, so it has become second nature. There are many sans serif typefaces that that are more legible at any size than some serif designs. Therefore, a sans serif type is generally recommended for the web. But which type? That’s where things get trickier.

Finding the Font For You

The fonts you pick for your website are key, because although research says the first three sentences are what get readers into your site, the look is what will get them into those first three sentences.

But is there one font that is universally agreed-upon by the experts? Unfortunately, no. Design is a tricky thing, and there are a lot of factors that go into making even this basic decision. When it comes time to choose a font, above all take into consideration readability and compatibility, as well as your company’s branding.

Let’s start with the obvious: Your font should be as readable as possible. If your font is easy to read and visually appealing, you’re in. On the other hand, if your typeface is something commonplace or ugly – think Times New Roman or (heaven help us) Comic Sans – your potential customers will go the way of the linotype machine (for those who don’t know what linotype is, well, we rest our case).

It’s important to choose a font that’s common enough to be readily accessible, but not so omnipresent that it makes your reader’s eyes glaze over. Compatibility comes into play here: If your visitors don’t have your particular font on their computer, their browsers may default to another font, perhaps throwing your entire design scheme into disarray. This is even more important when it comes to mobile optimization, which has become vital for both accessibility and SEO.

And, once you’ve accounted for usability, be sure to select a font that conveys the style and personality of your product or service, which should also inform the look of your site in general.  If you have a traditional, consciously old-fashioned site - perhaps for a rustic restaurant or bar - you might want a more traditional sans serif font like Verdana. If you want a sleek, modern look consider, something like Helvetica.   

For example, are you curious what fonts we use at Geek Chicago? We're all about forward-thinking simplicity, and our text reflects that: Our headlines are all in Fjalla One, a chunky sans serif font, while our text body is in the simplest sans serif, Open Sans.

In the end, fonts open a world of possibilities, and the choice is all yours. Whether you need to pick between Georgia or Arial or you just want help with any step of the web design process, feel free to drop Geek a line! Our talented team is here and ready to help with all of your content creation, social media, and web design needs.

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).