Please stop. There is no excuse for bad typography on the web. Typography is arguably the most important principle of web design. Hierarchy, leading, kerning and composition are crucial in making a digestible web page.
The days of “websafe” fonts are over.
There are many resources that bring your favorite typefaces to the web. Most are not free, but they are worth it. Generally speaking, the cost to use a font on the web, whether you are buying an individual license or joining a subscription service, depends on how many views your website gets. Below are a few of my go-to resources:
Google Fonts, a completely free resource, has a decent library and is a good place to start. It won’t have your favorite typeface but it will likely have a “value” version that looks similar.
I’ve noticed that, depending on the font, the letter forms do not render well, or the same, across all browsers or platforms. On the other hand, they do load pretty fast.
Typekit pioneered web typography, and they are continually growing and improving their library. After Adobe’s Acquisition many of Adobe’s fonts became available making it a resource few can rival. They’re affordable too. With subscription levels starting at $25/month for personal use and maxing out at $100/month for professionals there’s an option for everyone. Cross browser compatibility isn’t bad either — you can preview how each font will look through their on site editor.
If you’re working on Mac, don’t be alarmed when a Typekit typeface renders pretty differently on a PC. It can be rough. However, I have no doubt they are diligently working to make things more consistent.
Hoefler & Frere-Jones, the worlds leading type foundry, just launched the long-awaited cloud.typography. This service is subscription based (starting at $100/month) and includes the entire H&FJ collection. Professionals — this is definitely your best option for high quality, consistent rendering and compatibility as each letterform is built from the pixel up.
I have yet to take advantage of this option so I don’t have any comments from personal experience, but I can’t wait to give it a try.
I’ve done this for several projects and haven’t had any problems with cross-platform compatibility or quality.
When designing for the web, think like a print designer. Scratch that. Think like a designer. The design principles of print design are exactly the same for web design and for interior design, for product design, etc. Every time a ‘print’ designer says they can’t design for the web I think an aspiring designer’s passion dies. It’s just crazy-talk. In fact — more of you ‘print’ designers need to be designing websites. The internet will only be better looking because of it.
Don’t get too comfortable
Just when you think you’ve figured all this out, it will change. And that’s the exciting part — web design is always evolving and will never get stale. If I had to guess, in the coming year web design is going to become more and more app-like. Agencies like Rally Interactive are setting the stage, and I wont mind one bit if more websites pop-up with the finess of snowbird.com or as immersive as Into the Arctic by Hello Monday.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t a time and place for basic, time-proven fonts like Arial or Georgia in web design. They are extremely legible and everybody has them. They just aren’t your only option, and if you decide to use them, use them well.