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Typography and the Web

Kaila Garrison
Product Marketing Manager

With thousands of typefaces at the ready, anyone can design a webpage. But not just anyone can design a good webpage. Web design is a tricky business, and when it comes to typefaces, there’s often a fine line between beautiful and illegible. 

With that in mind, here are a few tips for fledgling Web designers to consider when choosing typography.

1. Keep it simple. Just because you have thousands of typefaces doesn’t mean you should use them all. The use of too many fonts creates confusion and makes reading difficult. It also looks amateurish. Pick one font for body copy and another for headlines and display copy, and stay consistent throughout your site. For body copy, the most common choices are Georgia, Arial, Verdana and Lucida Grande. Solid choices for headlines are Georgia, Arial and Helvetica.

2. To serif or not to serif. Sans-serif fonts are more popular and they do translate well in a browser. But for long blocks of text, serif fonts are easier to read. The choice is really yours—but whichever you choose, stick with it. Switching back and forth makes reading difficult, and that will only cause your visitor to leave your site.

3. Watch your scale. Scale is the sizing relationship between body copy, headline copy and graphic text; used properly it makes the page easier to read. The most popular scale sizes are as follows:

• Headings: between 18 and 29 pixels.

• Body copy: between 12 and 14 pixels.

• Heading font size ÷ body copy font size = 1.96.

• Line height (pixels) ÷ body copy font size (pixels) = 1.48.

• Line length (pixels) ÷ line height (pixels) = 27.8.

• Space between paragraphs (pixels) ÷ line height (pixels) = 0.754.

• Characters per line: between 75 and 85 characters.

4. Don’t scream. Using all caps, boldface, underlines and italics to make a point is the typographical equivalent of screaming. That can scare a visitor away.

5. Plan for older eyes. Remember that your viewers age 40-plus are likely to boost their screen size on their browsers. Make sure your font selections still flow appropriately when they do.

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