Best Typefaces to Use on Your Site
WMT Section: Webmaster Tips - WMT Category: Web Design Tips

For a while it seemed like the internet is moving towards a more graphical style of use, with Flash dominating for a few years and video services like YouTube bringing in lots of users and lots of money.

However, nothing can replace a written word, no matter what kind of site you're running - from a simple blog to a complex store.

The reason behind that is very simple - Search Engine crawlers have very limited understanding of what hides behind the video or a script, they deal with words and words alone. “We live and breathe words.”―Cassandra ClareClockwork Prince 

Words are how we get our points across, and words are what differentiate men from animals. The internet is words, and that's not going to change in the foreseeable future, which is what makes mastering them very important to anyone who wants to deal with the internet.

Knowing what to write and how to write it punctually and correctly is a big part of forming a popular web site, but making it pleasing to the eye is just as important, if not even more important. Internet is a fast-paced place and study after study have shown that a first glance at the page can determine if a user will stay and read the content of your pages or leave.

Visual communication in the form of word design is a real art, and the anatomy of letters is something you should pay attention to when developing your site. Choosing the right typeface for a site is just as important as picking the overall design. Here are some of the choices in front of you that have been tried and tested.

Serif fonts

One of the oldest typesets, used for decades and for a good reason. Large white areas and sharp lines make them easy to read no matter if you're using a small or a large font.


- Baskerville
- Didot
- Pigeon
- Sabon
- Bodoni
- Georgia
- Meta Serif

Sans Serif

Again, a combination of thick and thin lines, but this time without the serifs themselves.


- Futura
- Arial
- Helvetica
- Gill Sans
- Bebas
- Akzidenz Grotesk
- Meta


Gothic typesets are both loved and hated. They look really, really good, but they can be very hard on the eyes if you have to read through clustered blocks of texts. Mainly decorative in nature, they're mainly used for big titles, or as drop-caps. 


- Lucida Blackletter
- Perry Gothic
- Urdeutch
- Old London
- Cardinal 


Elegant and decorative, but thinner and less imposing than Gothic type fonts, Script typefaces are the most formal of all typefaces. They're great for various invitations, greeting cards and romantic letters. 


- Scriptina
- Snell Roundhand
- Edwardian Script 


Thick and thin in turn, Brush type fonts are round and fluid - like brush strokes. Artistic and good looking, they are not often used in large blocks of text, but as decoration. 


- Script MT
- Artbrush
- Bello
- Lobster


Meant to simulate natural handwriting, these fonts are often used in signatures as well as heading of a personal text letter. They're not always clear as their design can be messy, so they're very rarely used. 


- Dakota
- Noteworthy
- Windsong 

Typeset formatting

There are a lot of ways to wrap your text, from alignment to font size and leading value. Some of the choices make letters and articles easier to read, some may make things look messier instead of helping out. Personally, I've always liked to justify blocks of text, but it seems like the regular left alignment is something most users prefer when they have to do some reading.

A slightly bigger leading value (the space between rows of letters) may be suggested, as default values of many text editors and web site platforms get the letters too close together. It's also important to keep track of kerning - the space between letters in different fonts is different, making some look easier for the eyes, while making some look less so. 


“But words are things, and a small drop of ink, Falling, like dew, upon a thought produces. That which makes thousands, perhaps millions think.”― George Gordon Byron

Just like you're paying attention to how you say something when you're talking to a real life crowd, you should also pay attention to how something written looks when you're addressing an internet crowd. Basic typography skills are essential to providing the visitors of your site with content that is easy on the eyes and easy to read while looking good.

A note - not all browsers handle fonts evenly and having too many different fonts used at once can make your web site clunky and slow even with great hosting.


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