Typography in Web Design: Why It’s a Big Deal

Typography in Web Design: Why It’s a Big Deal

For the non-designers, there is little difference between the terms “typography” and “font.” The words are often used interchangeably, and for the general population, it really isn’t a big deal that they don’t know the difference. However, as a web designer, it is essential that you know the difference between the two, as well as why typography is so important when it comes to web design.

Many newcomers to web design, and a few old timers, have the notion that typography is all about fonts. While this is true in its most simiplest form, typography is so much more than that. It goes far beyond selecting the prettiest font and slapping it into your design. This kind of oversimplification is nothing more than laziness on a designer’s part to fully understand the role that typography plays in web design.

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Before you can understand the role that typography plays in your web design, you have to truly understand typography. Typography is quite simply the art and technique of arranging type, and is about much more than making the words legible. Ellen Lupton, the director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore believes that typography is what language looks like. It embraces every element that affects web design including, line length, point size, layout, color palette, typeface, and design integration. As web design continues to advance, and is driven by big, powerful imagery, it is important to remember that typography is the lynchpin that is holding the design together. Without typography, the Internet would be full of boring sites filled with Times New Roman and Helvetica fonts, and will have nothing for audience to get excited about.

Typography and Web Design

First impressions are often the ones that last. Typography helps to create an experience for your users before they’ve even read a single word or clicked a button on your site. Typography goes beyond merely telling a story; it creates an atmosphere and elicits a response much the same way as tone of voice does.

When it comes to the millions of websites on the Internet, the single most important thing for people coming to these sites is the content. In fact, 95 percent of the information that is on the web is written language. Oliver Reichenstein’s Information Architects (iA) blog post “Web Design is 95% Typography” sparked debate among the design community. “It is only logical to say that a web designer should get good training in the main discipline of shaping written information, in other words: Typography,” Reichenstein wrote.

Typography Evokes Feelings

Typography can be a very powerful tool to evoke certain feelings in your audience. Apart from the looks of a website, the choice of fonts and colors, and how you arrange them on the page can influence the way your viewers feel. With the use of typography, you can create a certain statement that evokes an emotional connection with your audience. When you understand the role that typography plays, you can create designs that will strike a cord with your audience. If you don’t have a handle on the importance of typography in your design, you could run the risk of distancing your audience forever. The typeface that you choose to use in your design can create different responses in your audience. By using different style fonts, or simply arranging them in a unconventional fashion, you can change the perception that your audience has about the website, and elicit different emotions without your audience knowing about it.

Typography’s Role in Branding

When it comes to branding, typography is an extension of the brand’s tone and voice. When you are designing a site for your customer, or your own business for that matter, it is important to take care defining and differentiating the brand through strong typography. The typography is the key to the expression of the voice, tone and style of any brand. As a designer, your job is to create harmony between your client’s logo, font and typeface, and having a clear understanding of typography will help you achieve that. Picking the right typeface for your client means you are picking one that infuses the clients message with the right feeling.

Typography as a Guide

Having a site that is full of great content isn’t enough; you have to be able to present it well too. With the right typography, you can guide your audience through the site, showing them the most important information that they need to focus on. Both changing the size of the text and changing how it is arranged on the page and the colors that you choose can help generate a visual hierarchy for your audience, explains Connor Turnbull, writer for the Tuts+ website. With the right arrangement and alignment on the page, you can take a word dense page, which your audience would normally struggle through, and turn it into a work of beauty that your audience can’t turn away from.

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Typography Makes Content Attractive

This isn’t to say that a site full of immeasurably horrific content will suddenly become worthwhile for your audience because of the typography. You may be able to fool your audience for a few moments, however as soon as they realize that they have been deceived, they will quickly leave the site with little chance that they will ever return. On the same note, a site that has the most mesmerizing, seductive content will fall flat if it is presented with 11-point dark red Time New Roman font. When it comes to using typography to make the content on your site more attractive, you have to have semi-decent content in the first place, and then use typography to enhance it so that it becomes so appealing to your audience that they can’t help but devour it. Using the right font can draw your audience in and keep them interested in the information that you are presenting them.

Typography Maintains Consistency

Order and familiarity are two qualities that Internet users seek out in every single website that they visit. They tend to become confused and uncomfortable if you make arbitrary changes to the rules on your sites. When your audience has to relearn how to use your navigation, or has to search your site to find elements that they were once familiar with, they will have no issue with leaving your site for good after the second or third frustrating experience trying to regain their bearings on your site. You want to steer clear of using too many different fonts within a single design because it can cause your design to look unplanned and chaotic, leading your audience to feel confused. Utilizing good typography can help to pull together your website. It helps to maintain uniformity among all of the elements, which will boost the user experience on your site. With uniformed font, typeface, size, color, etc., your audience will find the order that they are looking for and will be at peace thanks to the familiarity of your site.

Final Thoughts

Typography is an integral part of your design. It can have a huge impact on your overall design. Good typography can make a website more enjoyable to your audience and has the ability to shape the perceptions of your audience and how they engage with the site. It has the power to incite conversations and will decide how effectively the content on the site will be delivered. Designing a site with typography in mind allows your audience to become more engaged in the experience. It is not only a convenient carrier of information it is also a way to engage audiences in your message and keep them coming back for more. A well designed website with carefully crafted typography will give your clients that kind of traffic that they are looking for, which in turn will give you the exposure that you are hoping to gain.

The cornerstone of every successful web design is typography. With 95 percent of the design being comprised of text, it is important to hit the mark when it comes to the typography, as it is the key factor in the overall success of your site. Websites are created with a certain audience in mind, and as designers it is important to consider that emotions that you want to evoke. These days a good web design isn’t just about using the best images, and the coolest graphics, it is now important to take into account the typography that you are using on the site as well. Creating the ease and readability for your audience, typography is a design skill that you need to be sure to master if you want to find success as a web designer.

 

Images provided by Shutterstock

FrontPage Image: Web design concept via Shutterstock

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  • Julia Starlark

    First started to be interested in what typography is after watching Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement speech several years ago. Enjoyed reading your article. Really! Structured and information-rich.