Webfonts 101

No longer are we constrained by the limited choices of standard system fonts that were once the status quo. Liberated by thousands of screen-optimized webfonts, the web has become much more diverse in its typography. While recognizing the overwhelming demand for options, numerous services have arisen to host massive libraries of webfonts. However, many of these services charge a fee—is it worth it?

With webfont-related technologies finally catching up with good web-design there has been a resurgence of variety and vivacity all over the web—and more paths to consider when implementing webfonts. But, before we determine whether or not the value of webfonts justifies the expense, let’s explore each of these paths.

Google Fonts

Google Fonts is an alternative to consider for the company on a budget. With over 600 fonts available for free use, you’re able to easily load webfonts onto your site with a bit of code. The downside: selection is limited—very limited. Many fonts are restricted to a single weight and style, with no light, bold, or italics.

Webfont Services

With numerous vendors, webfont services tend to offer access to thousands of quality font families, often containing numerous weights and styles.

Webfont services are subscription-based, priced on your website’s monthly traffic. Unless you’re seeing monthly page views in the hundreds of thousands, the cost is more than affordable.

Self-Hosting Webfonts

The benefit of self-hosting webfonts over a subscription-based service is you’re not dependent on the uptime of an external server—even though that’s typically a non-issue given their strong reliability.

Another advantage is the ability to subset the fonts. Subsetting is the means to deleting all non-essential characters (and languages) to decrease file size and improve loading time.

Self-Hosting webfonts also differs in its pricing, typically opting for a larger one-time fee over the time-based subscription format.

Which is Best?

It really comes down to your preference and needs—as well as any existing fonts your brand might utilize and through what means those are available. At Zync, we opt for webfont services, but will sometimes go the path of self-hosting webfonts if the font is not available elsewhere and the license allows.

So is it worth it?

Yes! For a minimal expense, webfonts connect your brand to your digital presence—which is increasingly one of the most important mediums to connect with prospective and existing clientele. Webfonts play a vital role in brand consistency and when selected and implemented by educated professionals they increase personality.

Other Things to Keep in Mind…

Web to Desktop: With webfonts, users do not require a copy of the font installed on their system in order to view it. But that means if users copy and paste text from the website to a desktop program—such as Microsoft Word—formatting will not carry over.

Appearance Discrepancies: Across different browsers, webfonts will present slight variations in the way they’re displayed. This is decided by the browser’s rendering engine, which can affect thickness, spacing, etc. Operating systems also play a role as fonts on older versions of Windows may sometimes appear rigid and pixelated.