Fonts for Online Documents

Subject: Fonts for Online Documents
From: Karen Schriver <ks0e+ -at- ANDREW -dot- CMU -dot- EDU>
Date: Sat, 22 Feb 1997 13:35:44 -0500

Hi there,

The question of which fonts to use for online documents is an important
one, but answering it requires thinking about more than which serif or
sans serif font to employ. It is also important to consider issues such
as type size, typographic contrast, type weight, line length, leading,
and paragraph style (as well as and other competing textual/graphic
areas of attention on the screen). All of these graphic and typographic
features interact in significant ways such that they can make a sans
serif type that seems readable actually be quite unreadable.

To answer the question about preference, there is some available
research about what readers actually prefer and what they perform best
with (I summarize this work in my book, Dynamics in Document Design).I
have long been interested in the relationship between preference and
performance.I describe a preference study of hardcopy documents in which
I find that people prefer serif and sans serif faces equally well, but
they may have strong preferences for particular styles of faces
depending on the genre they are reading. I find, for example, that
readers of hardcopy texts prefer serif faces for multi-paragraph body
copy such as found in short stories; however, they prefer sans serif
when they are reading instruction manuals. I feel, however, that
people's preferences are not so much related to serif or sans serif but
to contrast (not surprisingly, contrast is a very important cue in
reading instructional texts). Over a number of studies of typography
that I've done, I find consistent evidence that people like faces for
documents with high contrast between the bold and normal versions of the
type no matter whether they are serif or sans serif.

best of luck,

karen schriver
KSA, Document Design and Research

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