When I begin building a website with a client, there can be a lot of elements that fall into the category of “Gosh. I’ve never really had to think about that before.”
In addition to the obvious decisions like how many pages you want and whether you need a PayPal account or an email opt-in list, there are more fundamental elements like the right colors, the right photos, and the stickiest wicket of all, the right fonts.
The fonts you use in your site DO matter. Granted, no one is going to say, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly buy my jewelry from someone who uses sans-serif headings.” (And if they do, that’s probably a client you really don’t want.) But fonts can really differ in terms of their readability, their effectiveness, and the different impressions they can make on web readers. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test.
Put yourself in the shoes of a physician who is starting up a new housecall practice. The hurdles in his new business include establishing his credibility, instilling trust in potential new clients, and convincing people that a housecall physician is just as capable and professional as a hospital physician. Here are three typefaces that he’s considering using prominently in his website:
The first font says, “I’m professional, smart, and trustworthy.”
The second font says, “I spent too many years in a M*A*S*H unit and have the bedside manner of a drill instructor.
The third font says, “I’m going to show up at your house with a red ball on my nose.” (now if you WANT a doctor to make your kids laugh while they get their immunizations, that’s a good thing.)
Granted, this an extreme example. More often than not, we just need to be sure our headings and our main text look harmonious together, and are easily readable even in long blocks of text (p.s. – the web isn’t the place for long blocks of text.) And the most important of all? You have to like how your site looks. It has to feel right to you. It has to feel like you.
Many people on the web have created visual cheatsheets that show you some great font pairings that work well with each other. As a visual person, this is really the only way I can imagine how certain things will look.
These four tools can help you visualize how different fonts can look – have fun!