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29 Oct 2012

Typography in Your Design Can Make or Break Your Site

typographyQuick, what the most important elements in a website's design?

Most designers would probably immediately think about things like color, balance, negative space, simplicity, and marrying the form to the function. After all, you can turn someone off right away by blasting them with so many colors that they feel like they're at a carnival (unless, of course, the site is for a carnival) or making the navigation so complicated that they don't know where they're supposed to go or what to do. Those are all reasonable things to be concerned about, but way too many designers neglect one 

very important element, oftentimes making it an afterthought in the overall look of the site: the typography.

This is a huge mistake, because if you choose the wrong typography, it can ruin the rest of the site that you spent so much time and effort putting together. Bad use of typography can make visitors confused about where they should focus their attention and which places they need to click in order to get to where they want to go. If it's truly awful, it may even make people click away and cause your traffic to drop.

Here are things you have to pay attention to when dealing with typography in your design:

Can I read it? This is the most obvious question you should be asking as a web designer or the owner of a site, yet still there are sites out there with text that is difficult to read for a variety of reasons. Maybe the background and text colors don't work together. Or the text itself is too small. Or the font itself just isn't very legible. These are all things to think about when choosing your text.

Will people know what's important? Because they should, and how you use your text will tell them this. Some of the most common methods designers use to indicate importance to visitors are the size of the text (the bigger it is, the more it matters, usually), bolding or italicizing titles or subsections, and using different colors. In some cases, you might even be able to use a different font to show importance, but this is something you should always be careful about.

Are there too many fonts? The typical rule is that you don't want more than two or three fonts (at most) interacting in the same visual space. Any more than that and your page just ends up looking like a big jumbled mess. This is 100 percent true for individual pages, but usually it's a good idea to make the entire site follow a similar design so that it all feels like it goes together.

What mood does it convey? Your site for a suicide hotline probably shouldn't have text in comic sans or chiller (though, to be fair, what site should?), nor should the page for your skateboarding business be in old English text, unless your goal is to be ironic and your audience will understand that. Basically, the look of the text should fit what the site is all about.

Is it designed well? This may seem like an odd question, because most web designers aren't going to the trouble of creating entirely new typography for sites, so how can they be blamed for how the fonts look? Well, that's not exactly what I mean. Regardless of the font you choose, it can still have good or poor design depending on how much attention you pay to things like alignment, line height, spacing, and so on. Well-designed typography should feel like it's a part of the overall visual picture and enhance what's there.

About the author:
Steven Chalmers has written for the technology industry for many years. When he’s not busy writing poignant articles, you can find him covering or working on his collection of vintage hot rods.


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