Re: How to decide which font to use for website

Subject: Re: How to decide which font to use for website
From: "Jeanne A. E. DeVoto" <jaed -at- jaedworks -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999 16:12:48 -0800

At 1:48 PM -0800 11/3/99, Michelle Vina-Baltsas wrote:
>I'm working on a web design steering committee to revamp our corporate
>Question... I've read that for online viewing (online help, websites, etc.)
>san-sarif fonts are recommended. Anyone know if there is any documentation
>anywhere that confirms this?

The short answer as far as I can tell is "No, although there are intriguing
studies one way and the other, and font variables other than serifs also
seem to be important." Check the archives for previous discussions of the
whole serif/sans serif issue.

The larger issue when it comes to web site design, though, is why you're
considering overriding the user's choice of font in the first place. The
user presumably will choose the font he or she finds most comfortable; if
you're going to replace that with your own choice of font, it seems to me
that that decision must be justified by some pretty heavy-duty usability
concerns first. (Of course, this applies primarily to running text -
readability of headings, captions, and other ancillary text isn't as

>does the font that you choose for your website have to be
>installed on the users workstation for it display properly?

Yes, in general, with a couple of caveats. The first is that you can
specify multiple fonts, in order of preference, in your style sheet, and
the visitor's browser will use the first one that's available. You can
specify a generic style such as "sans-serif", as well, and the browser will
use whatever font that browser has specified as a default for that generic
style. (This can and will vary depend on browser and platform.)

The second is that Netscape has a technology called "Dynamic Fonts" that
lets you attach a font to an HTML document, after converting the font to a
special format. However, since this solution isn't cross-browser
compatible, it isn't used much.

In the absence of the font(s) you specify, the browser will use the font
the user has selected by default. And. of course, the user can turn off all
font manipulation completely and view the site in their preferred font.

jeanne a. e. devoto ~ jaed -at- jaedworks -dot- com

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