Typography in Web Design

July 25, 2022

Don’t underestimate the impact that text can have on your Web site. The main reason people visit a site for the first time is to read the information it provides. Many consumers still get crucial information about a business, its products, and services by reading textual content—not by watching a tutorial video or looking at appealing images. Words are essential for any Web site—and how a site presents those words is equally important.

Every site needs to deliver the right emotions, intent, and information to visitors in a textual format. That’s where design and typography come into play. Typography is just one aspect of Web design, and it can be a valuable brand asset.

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What Is Typography and How Does It Affect Text?

Typography is the style of the text in the design for a print document or, in this case, a Web page. It determines the appearance of the letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and all the other symbols and characters in a site’s textual content. Figure 1 shows the anatomy of a typeface.

Figure 1—What are the elements of a typeface?
What are the elements of a typeface?

Image source: Material Design: “Understanding Typography”

While top Web-design trends tend to change and evolve over time, typography remains largely consistent. For example, you’ll rarely see Web sites purposely make their fonts too small or too large for the readers’ comfort just to set a new trend.

After all, typography defines the text color, size, layout, alignment, and more—all with the ultimate aim of making textual content user friendly and readable.

Different Typographic Styles Evoke Different Emotions

Whether in Web design or print, the appearance of letters and characters has an immense impact on the reader. You’ve likely noticed this yourself when reading books or going through the messages on your favorite social-media platform.

WHEN YOU SEE A SENTENCE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, YOU LIKELY FEEL THAT THE WRITER IS MORE AGGRESSIVE. You probably react to such text as if the writer were yelling at you, demanding your attention.

On the other hand, when you see a sentence in italics, it feels almost as if the writer were whispering.

Different stylizations of the same font evoke these differing emotional responses. When you introduce different fonts, the text becomes more exciting and complex.

The Comic Sans font seems informal and lighthearted. Times New Roman gives you the impression that you’re reading a serious, professional document.

Different fonts lead to unique emotional reactions and visual responses in your readers. These phenomena are known as font psychology.

If you keep font psychology in mind when designing your Web site, you’ll find it easier to establish the right brand voice and persona, which can help you to connect with your target audience.

Creating a Text Hierarchy Delivers Your Message More Effectively

When creating a Web site, you’ll include various pieces of information on different pages. Of course, some those pieces of information are more important than others. For example, a product’s price is significantly more important to consumers than its model number. Therefore, you need to develop a content-marketing strategy that draws the attention of your Web site’s visitors to the essential information you want to convey. To do this, you must keep your text hierarchy in mind. Figure 2 provides an example.

Figure 2—A text hierarchy
A text hierarchy

Image source: PDC: “The Importance of Text Hierarchy”

Determine which pieces of information are most important for readers to consume, then create a text hierarchy that lets you emphasize different parts of your text, using different text sizes, styles, and colors.

If your unique selling proposition (USP) is your affordable pricing, you’ll want to emphasize prices by using a larger font for them. If you take pride in your customer reviews, you’ll want to create a distinct section on each page to highlight testimonials. Just make sure that you know what information is most important for you and your customers.

Fonts Help Readers Distinguish Different Types of Text

All Web sites have different types of content, including primary information, secondary information, and navigational links. Typography and fonts can help readers quickly make a distinction between these different types of content.

You should always highlight the most important piece of text on a page. For example, if you want customers to add an item to their cart, you should include an Add to Cart button in a prominent location, using a fairly large font for its label, with clear contrast between the text and its background. You wouldn’t place this button at the bottom of the page, using a small font or light gray text on a white background.

By creating a clear text hierarchy and applying different text sizes, colors, alignments, and styles, you can make it easier for your audience to distinguish between different types of text and understand which information is most important.

Typography Provides Context

Different industries have different tones. In a business-to-consumer (B2C) setting, you can be as formal or informal as you want. In a business-to-business (B2B) context, you should keep things more professional. Fonts can help you set the tone that your niche requires.

As a general rule of thumb, most serif fonts seem authoritative and formal, while sans serif fonts give the impression of being more modern or casual. Therefore, if you want to convey the sense that a Web site’s context is that of a serious B2B company, you might use serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Merriweather. If you’re creating a site for a technology company, you can choose more a modern-looking sans serif font such as Arial or Calibri.

Whether you’re using an artificial-intelligence (AI) Web-site builder that can suggest the fonts it thinks are most suitable for your business or developing a site entirely from scratch, you should make sure that the fonts you choose provide the right context for your niche.

Typography Creates Consistency

Regardless of the type of business, brand consistency is key to its success. You need to create a unified brand persona with a consistent voice, imagery, and overall design. It is this consistency that makes your brand recognizable and helps you stand out from your competitors.

There are numerous ways to ensure consistency. First, use your brand’s logo in the header of your site, as a profile picture on social-media channels, and on promotional materials.

Use a specific tone when communicating with clients and keep your brand’s personality the same across channels. You should also stick with the same typography for all your content production.

Unified typography across your Web site’s design and print content makes your brand more easily recognizable, even without providing any other context. As Figure 3 shows, anyone can recognize Disney materials or Harry Potter content just by looking at the font.

Figure #—Disney’s brand identity
Disney's brand identity

Image source: Disney font

While you don’t have to go out of your way to develop your own unique typography, just sticking to the same font and style helps improve brand consistency.

Typography Improves Readability

Typography can make or break your site’s readability. Considering that you’ll have plenty of textual content on your site, including both short- and long-form content, the typography you choose can mean the difference between high and low Web-site traffic.

Poor contrast between text and its background, text in too small a font, overly stylized fonts—similar to that shown in Figure 4—insufficient whitespace, and poor spacing between words or lines of text can all make your Web site too tiring for your visitors to read.

Figure 4—A hard-to-read font
A hard-to-read font

Image source: WebDesignDev: “20 Worst Fonts You Will Definitely Want To Avoid”

If you want to attract higher traffic and keep your audience on your Web site longer, you’ll need to consider your typography carefully.

Typography Improves Navigation

Navigation-system design is an essential aspect of Web design. Proper typography can provide more context, consistency, and readability, enabling people to better understand its text labels.

You can make it significantly easier for your visitors to find the information they need by emphasizing critical information with larger text, using readable fonts in your navigation system, and chunking long-form content into shorter paragraphs.

However, keep in mind that, as part of Web design, typographical design is not a methodology, but a process. Don’t just choose your fonts, colors, sizes, and layout, then forget about it. Keep improving and tweaking your typography to get the best results.

Final Thoughts

Although few business owners give typography much thought, typography is a critical aspect of Web design. It can make or break your user experience, so choose your typography wisely. 

Internet Marketing Specialist at Point Visible

Varazdin, Croatia

Anamarija IgrecAnamarija works for Point Visible, an agency that provides content-marketing services to businesses. She enjoys sharing her insights with like-minded enthusiasts and never tires of searching for new opportunities to advance her knowledge—both at work and in her day-to-day life whenever she gets some free time. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in economics, from the Faculty of Organization and Informatics.  Read More

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