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How to Select Fonts for Your Web Site

Aug 17, 2007
Choosing the right fonts is an important decision you will have to make when designing a quality web site, web header, and ebook cover. You will want to choose a font that is readable and appropriate for your audience.

It's important to understand that if you want viewers to see a special font on a web site, you must convert the text into a graphic. I don't recommend using special fonts for a complete web site and converting a complete web page into a graphic. When doing so, you're losing the search engine optimization you get from keywords. Instead, use special fonts sparingly. Use them in your headers and possible in headlines and subheadlines.

The following information about fonts will help you to make the right choice:

* Limit the number of fonts in a web site to a maximum of three.
* Use standard fonts. If you're using fonts your viewers don't have on their computers, their browsers will show substitute fonts and your web pages can look totally different on visitors' computers than how you intended them to look. You can avoid this by using fonts most people have, such as Arial, Times New Roman, and Verdana. These fonts are also easy to read on computer screens.
* Avoid special characters in a web page such as curly quotes, curly apostrophes, en dashes, and em dashes. These characters are unique to different operating systems and fonts, and may convert into bogus characters on web sites. To avoid this, use a text editor such as Notepad (Windows) or SimpleText (Mac) and check your pages on several operating systems.
* Use a type size that is geared to your target audience. For instance, use larger type for older readers.
* Emphasize important words, headlines, and sentences by using color, bold, and different text sizes but do so sparingly. Too much bold or color reduces the impact.
* Avoid underlining text. Readers might think your underlined words or sentences are links.
* Avoid small type, reverse type (white text on dark background), and italics.
* Use capital letters sparingly in your body copy.

Here are some more font tips for web headers:

* Use easy-to-read fonts. If the font is too ornate, such as a calligraphy font, your text may not be readable. Use easy-to-read fonts such as Times Roman and Arial. Use dark text on a light background for easy readability.

* Use one or two fonts. Never use more than three different fonts. Better yet, use different weights of the same font. For example, use Arial Black for the title and Arial Bold for the subtitle.

* Fonts that work well for web headers and ebook covers include the standards like Impact, Arial Black, Arial Bold, Helvetica Black, Helvetica Bold, Times New Roman, Garamond and other fonts you like that are easy to read.

* Target your audience. For instance, if your web site is targeted for women, choose a more feminine font. If your book's focus is children, then it would be appropriate to choose a font that conveys a sense of playfulness. And, if your subject is serious then you would want a font that conveys a serious tone.

* Don't use too much text on your header. The less text you use, the larger and more readable your text will be. Consider using a headline, and possibly a subheadline and your url.

* Use the largest, boldest font for your headline, a smaller size for the subheadline, and even smaller sizes for any additional text.

* Use text colors that contrast with your background to make your headline stand out. However, make sure that the color of your text does not clash with the background color. Depending on your background colors, red, white and yellow often work well.

* You can bold, italicize, or underline words and phrases for emphasis. Use italics and underline sparingly. If overdone, you'll loose the affect and reduce the readability.

* You can make your text stand out with special type effects such as drop shadows and outlines, but use these effects sparingly.

* Use capitals only for short headings. Sentences or paragraphs in all capitals letters are hard to read. For longer headings, use upper/lower case.

* Consider placing your web site URL as a watermark on the header graphic to make it harder for people to steal your images.

Like just about all rules, most font rules can be broken. Choose a font that is readable and pay attention to what message and feeling you're communicating with your selected font. If your prospects can not read your message, then your choice of font can result in a loss of sales.
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