Putting your best font forward
Fonts - why they really matter
Have you ever visited a website and been totally turned off by the font style?
The words may be elegantly and succinctly crafted. The website itself might be the work of a graphic genius. But … if the font makes the reading experience like a trudge through sticky toffee pudding, then – what’s the point?
Colin Wheildon puts it succinctly. In of Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes?, he says:
“It’s possible to blow away three-quarters of our readers simply by choosing the wrong type. If you rely on words to sell, that should concern you deeply.”
So then – what’s the answer? What’s the best font for ensuring that your web visitor has as smooth and easy a ride as possible?
Unsurprisingly, the last century has seen bucket-loads of psychological analysis to find out which are the best fonts for
attracting the reader – i.e. headlines
keeping the reader – i.e. making the reading experience smooth and relaxing
Then, of course, there’s the question of which are the best fonts for reading online – and the most effective for reading printed matter.
But first -
Serif or Sans Serif?
Serif fonts are those ones with the little tags and tails. Famous examples include Times New Roman, Palatino, Georgia and Courier. There’s a long-held theory that these are easier to read because the little tags and tails help the letters to flow into each other. Examples of Sans Serif are Arial, Calibri and Verdana. These have no little add-on bits and generally have a more contemporary feel about them.
So – which are the best fonts for print?
In Cashvertising, Drew Whitman quotes a study of ‘print’ fonts carried out in 1986. The results showed that – 12 percent of readers effectively absorbed a paragraph set in sans-serif type 67 percent preferred the version set in serif typeface.
But what about headlines?
There are so many preferences for stand-out, eyeball-grabbing headlines. For the most popular examples, there’s no-one better qualified than advertising legend David Ogilvy, who preferred the Century or Baskerville
And for reading On a screen?
Here the research points to sans serif being the best, although no-one seems to know why! Here are some guidelines – Arial 12-point size or Verdana at 10 points. If you’re after a formal look and really prefer a serif font, research shows that Georgia is best.
Maximising engagement with the right font
So there we have it. Naturally, the choice of font is up to you. There are no hard and fast rules. But – if you want to maximise the chances of your reader engaging with your copy and reacting to it, it’s not a bad idea to bear in mind the opinions of the experts. It could make all the difference.
Many of us have our own ‘pet’ likes or ‘dislikes’. Me? I have a profound fondness for the cool simplicity of Calibri. As for my pet hate. If I were to ever appear on the TV show, Room 101, I’d be pushing hard for that nasty childlike Comic Sans to get the chop. It’s trying so hard to be cool. It has to be the typographical equivalent of embarrassing Dad dancing at a wedding.