The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

8 August 2005

Easy readers

Lynn has some definite preferences regarding Web design:

Obviously, first of all it must be readable. I have a very strong preference for dark lettering on a light background. Serif or sans-serif? Either one is okay. Serif feels more formal or serious. Excessively large fonts, all bold text, bright colors and too many font colors on one page are very off-putting.

I'm pretty much in agreement on most of these, though obviously I don't put them into practice. Light lettering on a dark background can be done, but I think it requires bumping up the font size to avoid eyestrain. (Probably not this big, though.)

The original template I used when I shifted to Movable Type in the summer of 2003 called for serif fonts (justified, yet!) for text and sans-serif fonts for headings. My present-day style is not quite so consistent.

But is a serif font more "formal" or "serious"? In the context of actual print, I think it is, and I'd have my doubts about a textbook set in a sans-serif font. (My personal correspondence — yes, I occasionally write, or at least type, letters — uses a serif font for the body and for the block with my name; the address information is in a smaller sans-serif font.) I'm not so sure it matters so much on screen, though.

And this is sort of interesting: Car and Driver magazine these days uses a serif font for road tests, but previews are done in sans-serif. Do you think people were having trouble telling them apart?

Posted at 1:36 PM to Blogorrhea


Sans-serif fonts aren't really suitable for reading a long time in print. The serifs help your eye keep track of which line it's tracking.

However, monitor resolution isn't high enough to help readability on-screen, so the serifs are just clutter.

Web-safe serif fonts (Basically Times & Georgia) are less than appealing because of their ubiquity. Now, when we have true embedded fonts, we'll be able to do cool typographic design on the web.

Until then, I would stick with Verdana/Arial for anything longer than a headline.

Posted by: Dan at 12:13 AM on 9 August 2005

I'd rather look at Georgia than Times anyday. (Which is why the titles here are done in Georgia.)

Posted by: CGHill at 11:00 AM on 9 August 2005

Web-safe serif fonts (Basically Times & Georgia) are less than appealing because of their ubiquity.

There's a reason they're ubiquitous: they're the best for sheer readability -- and Verdana and Arial (and Tahoma, for Windows users) are simply their sans-serif counterparts in that regard.

I'll admit I'm looking forward to embedded fonts if they (and hovercars) ever come to pass, but I doubt I'll use them for body text, and I doubt I'll much enjoy reading sites that do.

Posted by: McGehee at 11:01 AM on 9 August 2005