Choosing the Best Free and Paid Fonts for Your Web Site

Writing for the web is seldom an easy task, and a little thing like the use of the wrong font can end up costing you lots of money in lost business and other unintended consequences. That is because some fonts do not appear properly on certain web browsers, while other fonts can be difficult to read no matter what browser the visitor is using. It can take some time to understand which fonts to use, and to find the sites where those fonts can be downloaded, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Of course commercial word processing, spreadsheet, web design and other software packages will come with their own set of fonts, but in many cases the choices they offer can be somewhat limited. Many web designers and owners of web based businesses will want to find additional fonts, or even to design their own fonts. For those in need of more font choices, there are a number of excellent web sites that specialize in all kinds of fonts. Some of these web sites offer fonts free for the taking, while other sites require web designers and others to purchase the fonts they need.

No matter what type of fonts you need to grow your business, it is important to look around carefully before making a final decision. Even though there are many free fonts available on the market, there are also a number of very good reasons for purchasing fonts instead. For instance, there are a number of specialized fonts, such as those used by the United States Postal Service (USPS), that many businesses use for bulk mailings. One such specialty font produces a bar code based on the destination ZIP code, and this bar code can in turn be used to lower mailing costs and increase efficiency.

Likewise, many scientific applications require specialized fonts, and those whose work requires the use of scientific symbols should consider the purchase of the fonts they need to make their work possible. Drafting, architecture and related businesses also often require the use of specialty fonts, as do a number of other businesses.

Of course even for highly specialized applications there may well be some free fonts available, and it never hurts to check around to see if what you want is available at no cost. When looking for free fonts, however, it is important to download those fonts only from reputable businesses, and to carefully scrutinize the web site, including the terms of service and other such agreements, before agreeing to the download. Like other pieces of software, fonts can contain viruses, spyware and other harmful code, so it is vital to download only from well known and reliable font sites.

No matter what types of fonts you need to make your web site complete, however, it is important to keep in mind how writing for the web differs from other forms of writing. In some ways, of course, the rules of fonts that apply in the offline world apply in the world of the Internet as well. That means that the fonts you choose should provide a consistent and professional appearance. Using a mixture of different fonts can give visitors the impression that the web site is unprofessional or poorly designed. While using a mixture of underlining, bold print, italics and other such enhancements can make the text on the web site stand out, in general it is best to use a single font throughout the page.

Consistency is the key when it comes to designing a web site and providing content for that web site. It is a good idea to provide visitors to your web site with a consistent look and feel across the various pages that make up your web site. If you use different fonts, colors and styles, visitors may be confused and think they have inadvertently left your site. It is important to use a consistent style throughout the pages of your web site, while using bolding, underling, italics and similar enhancements to accent the parts of your web site you want visitors to focus on.

When it comes to choosing the best free and paid fonts for your web site, there are a number of important factors to consider. Some of the most important considerations when it comes to both free and paid fonts include:

  • Consider the type of web site you have, and the type of visitor you are trying to attract. Using a large font, or a fancy font, in addition to bolding and italics, is a good way to capture the attention of the casual web site visitor and keep them around long enough to see what your site has to offer.
  • Think about the availability of the font. If you choose a font that is too rare or off the wall, many visitors to your site may not see it properly. It is important to choose a font that is both attractive and widely available. It is possible to create your own fonts and use them on your web site, and many webmasters use this technique to get around this common limitation.
  • Remember to choose free and paid fonts that are compatible with all the major web browsers. While Internet Explorer still captures a huge share of the browser market, it is no longer the only game in town, and alternate browsers like Firefox, Opera, Netscape, Deepnet and others are quickly making inroads into Microsoft’s territory. Choosing fonts that display properly on these alternate browsers is important today, and likely to be even more important in the future.
  • Consider compatibility with search engines. The fonts which are used within an image can be displayed on all computers, but they cannot be read by the search engines. If you design your own fonts using images, it is important to include an alt tag to describe the image. The search engine will need to read this alt tag in order to properly classify your site. It is important as well to use the important keywords in the web site copy itself, as this will help Google and the other search engines to more easily and accurately index your site.
  • Think about the size of the font. Using a variety of different font sizes is a great way to add flair and variety to any web site. Like bolding and other enhancements, font size is a great way to entice visitors and keep them looking at your business and what it has to offer.
  • Remember as well that fonts will often look different on PCs and MACs. When designing fonts for a web site it is generally better to use pixels instead of points. While points will look fine on a PC, they will appear smaller on MACs. Even though Macintosh commands a small market share, it is a market that no web business owner can afford to ignore.
    Another important consideration when it comes to writing for the web is to think about the readability of the fonts. There are two distinct types of fonts, and it is important to understand their differences.
  • Serif Fonts Serif fonts are the most commonly used fonts in print media, but serif fonts are not recommended for Internet writing. The nature of serif fonts tends to make them difficult to read on the screen. Serif fonts are those fonts that have the fine cross lines and other little touches at the extremities of each letter. Some examples of serif fonts include Times New Roman and Georgia.
  • Sans Serif Fonts As the name implies, san serif fonts lack the fine cross lines that typify the serif fonts. The name san serif comes from the French for without, or sans. Some of the most well known san serif fonts include Arial, Verdana and Helvetica. While san serif fonts are perfect for reading on the screen, they are not recommended for print media such as books, newspapers and magazines.

Some of the best known sites for downloading paid fonts of all kinds, both specialized fonts and general purpose ones, include:

No matter which type of free or paid fonts you choose, it is important to vary the size of the text throughout the body of the text. Using a large font size for the main header, a smaller one for the secondary header and a still smaller pixel size for the main text is a good practice.

One good tip for web site designers is to take advantage of cascading style sheets. These handy formatting tools enable writers to create a consistent look, feel and style across several different pages of text. In addition, when the owner of the web site wants to change the font on the web site, all he or she has to do is make a single change, and allow the cascading style sheets to do the rest.

Of course there are many other important factors to be considered when it comes to writing for the web and designing a winning web site for your business. The Internet is full of opportunities, but it is important to think carefully about how your web site is perceived by the casual visitor. Designing your web site, and writing your content, with the end user in mind is the best way to ensure a profitable web based business. While it is certainly true that content is king when it comes to building quality web site traffic and link synergy, it is vital to remember that writing for the web has its own special set of rules. Paying attention to those rules and using them to grow your business is what separates the most successful web site owners from all the rest.