When it comes to creating a professional looking website, it’s important to not only consider the colours and images you use, but also the fonts. There are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when choosing fonts for your website. It’s vital to ensure they’re readable, user-friendly and web-safe—meaning they work across all browsers and devices.
It’s SO easy to get buried in the technical details of picking a domain name, setting up emails, designing a logo, finding the perfect images, choosing the best website platform and figuring out what to sell online. Don’t underestimate the power of picking the right font and the deep psychological impact it has on your visitors. As an experienced designer I understand this and pick fonts very carefully and deliberately for my client’s websites.
So, what are fonts?
When used properly, fonts can make your designs stand out and convey your message with impact. Yet it’s one of the most frustrating parts for anyone starting out. If you’ve ever sat in front of thousands of fonts, trying to figure out which one will be the best for your website, then you know what I’m talking about.
Fonts are responsible for:
✓ Inviting the reader into the text
✓ Revealing the tone and meaning of the text, even before the reader gets to read the actual words
✓ Organising and clarifying the information (think hierarchy)
✓ Linking the text with other elements
✓ Giving credibility to the information
✓ And providing legibility and rhythm to the text
They’re also an important part of your brand identity. If you use typography in a consistent way through all your marketing materials, business stationery, social media and website, you’ll achieve a sense of recognition and memorability for your brand.
Make sure your fonts match your brand’s identity
Fonts are a core element of building a brand. You might like specific fonts already, but don’t let your own personal preferences get in the way. A font design might look nice, but if it doesn’t fit the purpose, scrap it! Instead, focus on picking a font that has the characteristics you want to represent your brand. Whether it’s sophisticated and elegant or rugged and adventurous, your use of typography should contribute to your website’s overall storytelling.
Fonts evoke different emotions. The infographic below gives you a clear idea about how different font characteristics convey different characteristics like “Strong” or “Traditional”. Use this infographic guide to pick out the font style that most suits how you want people to think of your business.
A quick guide to font classification
The art of typography is rich and complex – ranging from legibility to text alignment and spacing.
There are 5 main groups of typefaces:
2. Sans Serif
3. Script or Handwriting
We’ll focus on the three most important classifications: the serif, sans serif and script fonts. Here’s a quick summary of each one, and when to use them:
Serif typefaces are those that have little “feet” or lines attached to the ends of their letters. They are usually used in more traditional, formal or elegant designs. Examples include the classic Times New Roman, Georgia, or the beautiful Playfair Display.
Sans Serif means literally “without” the serif, without those extra lines at the ends of the letters. They usually look more modern than serif fonts, but that’s not necessarily true in all cases. Examples include Arial, Karla or Dosis.
Script or Handwriting typefaces are those that look more calligraphic, like they were written by hand. They include a large range of fonts, from more elegant and formal ones to extremely casual or fun. Examples include Lobster and Lucida Handwriting.
This classification system will help you understand what type of font you’re looking for. By the way, this is the same classification you’ll find in the Google Fonts collection. So next time you look for a typeface, you’ll know how to filter and adjust your search.
Rank your fonts by importance
As a rule of thumb, never use more than three fonts on your website. Moreover, each of these fonts should carry different levels of importance. In order to retain a clear sense of hierarchy, choose a primary font, a secondary font and an optional accent font:
Your primary font is the most visible one, and should be used on the headers of your website. This is the font that will be most associated with your brand, even if it’s not the most commonly used one throughout the site. As a result, the primary font can be more dominant and distinct than the rest of the fonts on your website.
Your secondary font will be used across the bulk of your written website content. This includes paragraphs, descriptions, blog articles and more. While your primary font can be eye-catching and unique, your secondary font should be, first and foremost, highly legible. Fonts that are too ornate are harder to read when applied over long chunks of texts.
Finally, your accent font is one that you’ll only use for a very specific purpose. When it comes to websites, the accent font is usually reserved for calls-to-action and drawing attention to your most important button on the page.
Most people are not skilled designers, but as you can see in the discussion above, you don’t need to be a design rockstar to improve your website’s readability, and communicate what your brand is about by applying some of the guidelines above.
So take your time and go through the discussion points above with your existing website. If you are starting a new website, bookmark this page and revisit it again when you are ready.
If in doubt, Serif and Sans Serif fonts are usually the safest ones for legibility and give a professional appearance. They are more solid and professional. And they alone can make stunning designs, without the need for quirkier fonts.
You now have an idea of some of the most important elements to consider when designing your website.
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