Choosing a typeface for your website can be a lot of fun. Some web designers, however, have a little too much fun with fonts and the whole ordeal can get out of hand pretty quickly. If you are looking for a way to add color and personality to your design, body text is not the place to do it. When it comes to any sort of text on your website, legibility should be your main concern. Legibility refers to the ease of recognizing letters. It should go without saying that if you can’t recognize the letters of the alphabet, you won’t be able to read the words on the page. Legible fonts bring meaning to websites. When it comes to web-appropriate typography, there are several key characteristics you should be looking for.
- Open counters. Counters refer to the white space in the center of letters like “c” and “o”. Larger counters increase legibility because they form more distinct shapes. Sharp angles at the joints of letters like “d” and “p” tend to create broader whitespace, making counters appear bigger.
- Distinct forms. When you are selecting a font for use on your website, try this simple test: type the word “1Illinois”. This is the only word you need to determine if a font is easily legible. Not only does it have both open and closed counters, but it also includes some of the most problematic characters in the Roman alphabet: the number “1”, the uppercase “I”, the lowercase “l”, and the lowercase “i”. In some typefaces, these characters are completely indistinguishable at any size. This is where serifs come in. According to most graphic designers, sans-serif typefaces are more legible than others. However, when it comes to the “1Illinois” test, the use of serifs (little lines or marks at the end of certain letters) gives each of these characters a unique shape.
- Consistent rhythm. Our brains process text in small jumps along the line. It is easier for us to read if the spacing is consistent. Of course, a typeface can’t control the space between letters or words, since this is adjustable in any word processing program, but it does determine the rhythm of the strokes that are built into the font. This rhythm refers to the vertical spacing between one end of a letter and the other. When the letter “b” is the same width as the letter “s”, the text is significantly easier to process.
Nearly half (46%) of internet users say a website’s design is their number one indicator of the credibility of a company. The typeface you choose won’t necessarily make or break your website; however, digital marketing professionals will advise you to make your text as legible as possible. Business professionals predict that by the year 2020, customers will manage 85% of their business interactions without ever talking to a human. It might seem like a small thing, but text on the screen makes a huge impact on the way your clients see your company. Chances are they will be engaging with you through your website or mobile app. And since there are over 100 billion global searches being conducted each month, and you can only anticipate this number to rise over the next four years, difficult to read text is a non-starter for most users. With this in mind, know that if your audience doesn’t like your site or can’t easily read it, they can quickly find a better one.