Is your website font dressed up or dressed down for business?

When it comes to the use of website fonts, I suspect that most professional service firms fall in the middle. The use of typography on a website to convey a brand is often overlooked and thought of as an insignificant detail. In reality, this is not the case. Just like in print design, typography plays a powerful role in conveying who you are, and works in conjunction with the other visual and design elements on a website page to create an overall impression.

During a website redesign, people typically focus on the photos that best tell their firm’s story, and with the story itself. Let’s face it: Choosing images has a lot more sex appeal than looking at typefaces. But typography should be included on the list of ways to set your firm apart from the other equally capable professional service firms. Otherwise, your website will look like everyone else’s.

This is how choosing the right typeface will add to your brand and will set you apart from the competition. The right typeface has this power to make your website look better, which can result in your visitors feeling more at ease, and improve their overall experience on your website in the process.

A good example of how a typeface can convey a brand is to compare several professional publications, like National Geographic and Architectural Digest. If both publications used Arial, the look and feel would be generic, and one publication might not look any more progressive than the other. But the use of a typeface can convert that generic page into something that says “strength,” “elegance” or “fun.” And while there are thousands of available fonts, some with little differences, each conveys a look and feel all its own. So why not elevate your website with a font that speaks to your business?

Identifying font style

Not every font style works well on a website, so choosing the style first, and then the font is important. The most common styles are Serif and Sans Serif. But there are also Display fonts, Modern fonts and Script (or handwriting) styles. Script fonts should never be used unless an overly stylized approach is expected, such as for wedding planners or craft stores. Display and Modern fonts can be good for headlines or subheads on a website, but should be used sparingly. Nor is every font readable when used in the body of the website. Something that is too skinny or too wide will be hard on the eyes and difficult to read.

Even if you don’t want to stray away from the fonts used most commonly on a website (such as Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman), consider combining a font with more style in the headlines or callouts to add to your firm’s personality. Fonts with clean lines and a thinner weight will convey a more modern and progressive firm. Older style fonts, like Times or Trajan, will convey responsibility and trust. To see how font styles can vary, look at this infographic guide. It’s not hard to pick out which font design is more suitable for readability and the impression it conveys.

Using non-standard fonts

Back in the early days of website design, web font options were limited. You had to use the basic system fonts like Helvetica, Times, Courier and Verdana, which were available for all computers and browsers. As the internet has grown and download speeds have expanded, we now have the option to use fonts outside the basic computer system. These fonts can be purchased or may be free to use, depending on the font house licensing agreement. Just like the images you have placed on your website, these fonts will download along with the web page to enhance the visitor experience.

Downloadable web fonts have truly opened up a whole new world for designers, and using fonts from a site like Google Fonts will allow you to embed the code that displays the font at no cost. To make your search easier, you can filter fonts by category and style. You can also view how the font will look and judge its readability by using it to type something in a short sentence. Want to see the font display in a smaller or larger size? No problem. Simply change the point size.

Choose for readability and versatility

Not every font is created equal. While a font may be unique, it may not be readable beyond one or two words. Make readability in your font choice a priority.

Once you have found a font you feel conveys your brand and style, you then need to look at its versatility. Is the font part of a larger family? Does it have multiple weights and an italic options? In the body of your website copy, there will be a need to call attention to a word or phrase, so having the option to use a heavier or bold weight, along with the ability to italicize key words, is essential.

Using a font family allows for some variation without using a different font all together — using more than two font families can make your website look messy, unprofessional or tacky, so limit your choices. Be sure to try each aspect of the font weight and style to confirm you like its look. Sometimes, a font may look good when viewed at a thinner weight, but will start to degrade at a heavier weight.

Picking the right font design is one of the details that can have a big impact on your firm’s branding, so put typography on your list of design elements when it’s time to redesign your website.

Reach out to me, Alan E. Singles, at asingles@jaffepr.com with questions or leave a comment about how typography has changed your website’s outcome.