Fonts for Web Design

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With the prevelance of WYSIWYG word processors today, sometimes clients wish to have web pages designed with fonts they have access to on their personal or business computers. The fact is, however, that only a few font families are available to the web designer. Anything else requires special techniques, like writing a more styled font into a GIF image or creating Flash text.

What many don’t realize is that when a web page loads on an individual’s computer, the fonts that are appearing in any given web page are installed on that particular machine. The fonts are not coming in to the user’s computer through the internet. So, if I have Braggadocio font installed on my PC — to choose a bizarre example — and the web designer called for Braggadocio to load in the web page, then that’s what I will see. If I don’t have Braggadocio installed, then I will see my browser’s default font for that page. The designer loses, in this case. While he or she may have spent long hours styling a page to show a certain font, I will never see the page as it was intended.

So, it is good for web designers and clients to know that there are font limitations. We can still be wonderfully creative using CSS in the way the fonts are presented. We can specify certain font colors, relative or fixed sizes, even drop-caps using CSS. Browser News has a terrific article on this whole concept, including a chart that shows the more common fonts available. Clients and designers would do well to understand these basic concepts when dreaming the next web page.

Look, the basic idea is this: as web designers, we need to be able to explain to our clients in the clearest possible language how things work on the internet. The bottom line is not to just “close a deal” or “make a sale,” but to fulfill our responsibility to make sure the client is informed.