Why Fonts Matter: Choosing a Font For Your Site

Take a look at your website. What do you see?

You’re probably thinking, “I see my website.” But there’s an important element that’s crucial to the way your content is perceived. It can make people believe you or cause them to ridicule you. You could have the best content in the world, but if this element isn’t right, it all goes downhill.

The secret weapon of websites? The font.

Why Fonts Matter

When you think about your content, you most likely don’t think about the font. Maybe you do on some level––you don’t want to use Comic Sans, for example. Perhaps you go with Times New Roman for its timelessness or Arial or Calibri for their universality.

However, choosing a font will have an enormous impact on what readers think of your content. Many people don’t realize that they’re being affected by how the writing looks, but it does influence them.

In 2012, The New York Times ran an insightful article on the effects of fonts. It concluded that readers found information more believable when it was in a certain font and less believable when it was in another.

What does this mean for you? If you use the wrong font, you can kill your content. So it’s vital that you exercise caution when choosing a font.

What’s Your Type? Choosing a Font For Your Site

Even if you’re unfamiliar with font terminology, you’ve probably seen them in action. There are two basic categories: serif fonts and sans serif fonts.

Serif fonts are more traditional, and their distinguishing features are the small strokes at the end of the lines of letters. For example, a serif T will have small lines on the horizontal line pointing downward. These are serifs. The best example of a serif font is the ubiquitous Times New Roman.

Sans serif fonts, appropriately, do not have serifs. They have a sleeker and more contemporary feel. Arial and Calibri are notable sans serif fonts.

Within each font type, there are hundreds and hundreds of fonts. Because there are so many, choosing a good font can be a headache. (And you’re probably wondering, “What makes each font different from the next?” I’ll answer that question in a moment.)

When choosing a font style and family, you’ll need to consider a few elements.

  • Your site’s design

If your site has a contemporary feel to it (like Nukeblogger), you’ll probably want to use sans serif fonts. These look cleaner and more updated because they’ve been associated with newness. Choosing a font that emulates or vibes well with your site’s design is a good idea.

  • Your content

Because of their connotations, serif fonts are associated with topics like literature, history, finance, and philosophy. If your content has academic, literary, or professional tones, opt for a serif font. If you’re talking about something that’s a recent trend, like minimalism or blogging, a sans serif font will pair well with your content.

  • Your audience

While your audience is most likely a product of your content, it’s still important to keep your target demographics in mind. The specific font family you use will affect the way your content is read, and you want to give your audience the right idea. For example, posting about a scientific breakthrough in a delicate serif font wouldn’t be the best choice.

There’s Too Many Fonts!

If you’ve clicked the drop-down menu on a word processor, you’ve seen the extensive list of fonts available to you. And many of them look similar––Arial and Helvetica are two infamously similar fonts. So you might be asking, “Does it really matter which font I choose?”

The answer: Yes and no. While many fonts do look the same, many of them have identifying features or unique takes on symbols. So if you’re a fan of the common ampersand (&), you’ll want to avoid using certain fonts that use uncommon-looking glyphs.

The same is true for all letters and symbols. For example, if you’re a fan of the traditional g, which features a second loop at the bottom, avoid fonts that have the contemporary g, which only features a curved line (like the Google logo).

So while it probably doesn’t matter if you choose Helvetica over Arial, it might matter if you choose Helvetica over, say, Lato. When choosing a font, make sure it integrates well with your blog’s theme, content, and message.

This is only the tip of the comma-shaped iceberg. There’s a world of theory behind fonts, and if you’re interested, I recommend Just My Type by Simon Garfield. It’s a highly accessible book on the usage, history, and origins of all kinds of fonts. Not only will it help in choosing a font, but it will also give you a deeper appreciation and awareness of fonts.

What font do you use for your site? Why? Let us know in the comments.

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