Website typography is essential when creating a stunning website but it’s not just about picking a pretty font.

Typography in modern web design is the art of engaging your audience with the written content on your site before they’ve had a chance to read a single word.

When done right, typography can make your message stand out prominently to users.

That said, mastering website typography is no small feat. It takes a keen eye, a strategic mind and a willingness to break the rules (in all the right ways).

If you’re ready to level up your typography game and create website designs that impress, read on.

What Is Typography and Why Is It Important?

Typography is critical, accounting for about a large percentage of your website’s design. Your choice of font not only impacts the layout of your pages but guides your users through the site.

The user experience, readability, accessibility and aesthetics of a website are all greatly impacted by typography.

Effective typography strengthens the visual hierarchy, directing users through the website’s interface while maintaining the brand’s identity and message.

Typography plays a powerful role in determining how users read and comprehend a website’s content.

An easy way to stand out in your niche is to understand typography’s significance and follow the best practices so you can create a better online experience for your customers.  

Website User Experience Design

Typography Terminology

Let’s look at a range of typographic components, what they mean and how they impact user experience.

Typography, generally, determines how text looks to the reader. It refers to how the words literally appear on a page or screen.

The best practices for web text often differ from those for printed text, as there’s a lot more to account for online.

On top of ease of reading, digital text must be designed for the following things:

  • Shorter attention spans, as there are virtually endless website options available and many with the same content.
  • Skimmability, as users tend to land on web pages looking for something specific and want to find it fast.
  • Accessibility, because not all internet users perceive or interact with text in the same way.
  • Multiple device types and screen sizes, with users split fairly evenly across desktop and mobile devices it’s important your typography remains legible.

Typography Principles

Typography is one of the most critical website design factors, as it significantly impacts many other user interface design areas, including usability, accessibility, branding, readability and aesthetics. 

Website typography plays an integral part in setting a website’s tone, theme and message.

For example, you can convey a site’s focus on modernity or traditionalism simply by choosing whether to use sans serif or serif fonts.

  • Sans serif fonts do not have the small projecting features called “serifs” at the end of strokes. With a modern and clean appearance, they are widely used in digital media and for display text due to their clarity and legibility on screens.
  • Serif fonts feature small lines or strokes regularly attached to the end of a larger stroke in a letter or symbol. Known for their traditional appearance, they are often used in print and for body text in books and newspapers due to their readability.
Sans Serif vs Serif Fonts Comparison

Along with using differents font families, you can also call attention to particular parts of your website copy and de-emphasise others by changing the font’s colour, line height, style and size.

The Challenges of Website Typography

Traditionally, graphic designers have studied the fundamentals of typography in terms of print design.

However, as the designer’s role now spans all types of digital mediums, typography has become a much bigger beast to tame.

In the spirit of brushing up on the fundamentals, we suggest using the website typography tips detailed below when selecting a typeface and formatting it for the best reading experience.

When designing a website, we have to consider how our type will look on various screens and devices.

We also have to consider how people will interact with our text. Will they be reading long passages of copy or merely scanning it for specific nuggets of information?

All these factors come into play when choosing typefaces and designing layouts for your website.

While there are no strict rules, some best practices can help you create beautiful, readable typography for your website or mobile app.

Choosing the Right Typeface for Your Website

Website typography involves choosing a system of fonts and typefaces to express the written word.

As an art form, typography can evoke strong emotions by using visually appealing letters and arranging fonts to express your brand’s unique personality.

Legibility and Readability

The most important consideration when choosing a typeface is its legibility. Can people actually read the text on your website?

If not, then nothing else matters. Without being able to read the text, there is no point in the text even being there.

Several factors can affect legibility, such as the size of the type, the line height and the colour contrast between the text and background.

In general, a larger type is more legible, while dark text on a light background is easier to read than light text on a dark background.

Readability is closely related to legibility, but it’s more about how easy it is to read long passages of text.

Some font styles are more readable than others, which is determined by the size and shape of the letters, the spacing between letters and lines and the overall rhythm of the text. 

Achieving good typography also has to do with implementing appropriate paragraph breaks to avoid overwhelming your reader with a wall of text.

Writing in all capital letters has also been shown to decrease readability.

Tone and Brand Identity

Consider the tone and personality you wish to portray on your website when selecting a typeface.

Varied fonts can send different messages, so choose one that fits your brand.

A fun font would work well for a kids’ eCommerce store, but not for a law firm’s website.

A simple and new style may work well for a tech group, but may not be the best choice for a more old-style work.

Typeface Pairing and Contrast

Most websites use more than one typeface, which can add visual interest and hierarchy to your design.

However, if you’re going to go down this road, then it’s important to choose typefaces that work well together.

Using different font weights and styles within the same typeface can create contrast.

For example, you might use a bold weight for headlines and a regular weight for body text.

Font Licensing and Legal Considerations

Make sure when choosing your typeface that you have the legal rights to use them – some fonts are free to use, while others require a paid licence.

If you’re using a paid font, read the licence agreement carefully as licences can differ with how many sites you can use it on and how the font can be used.

An example of a typical usage restriction might be that it may not be embedded in mobile apps.

It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan in case your chosen font isn’t available on a particular device or browser. Some great back-up font options can include Arial, Verdana and Georgia as these are known to be reliable, ready to read and web-safe.

Website Redesign

Website Typography Best Practices

Now that you know the basics of choosing a typeface for your website, let’s look at some of the best practices in website typography.

Limit the Number of Typefaces

If you’re interested in using more than one typeface on your website, make sure to limit yourself to a maximum of three fonts to make sure your design doesn’t become too cluttered.

Additionally, make sure that you are using all fonts consistently across your site – designating different fonts to different types of text.

For example, using one font exclusively for body text and another exclusively for headings.

Use a Sans-Serif Font for Body Text

Sans-serif fonts are generally considered to be more legible on screens than serif fonts because of the small details in serif fonts that can make it more difficult to read.

We recommend sticking to a simple sans-serif for your body text such as Arial, Verdana or Helvetica. Save the serif fonts for headlines and other short blocks of text.

Size Your Text Appropriately

To make sure your copy is both readable and legible, make sure your text is an appropriate size.

Generally, it’s recommended to use a font size of about 16px for body text. This is the perfect middle ground for website text – not too small to impact legibility but not so big that it utilises all of the screen space.

For headlines, you can go a bit larger. A font size ranging from 24px or 48px is the standard size of choice for headings.

Use Colours Carefully and Intentionally

Colour can be a powerful tool in web design, but it should be used carefully and intentionally.

When it comes to website typography, use colour to create contrast and visual interest, not to make your text harder to read.

For example, you might use a different colour for headlines than you do for body text or a light colour for text on a dark background. 

Whatever you do, ensure there is enough contrast between the text and the background. This is where the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) come in handy.

They recommend that a good rule of thumb is that the contrast ratio should be at least 4.5:1 for body text and 3:1 for larger text. 

Provide Sufficient Spacing Between Lines

The spacing between lines of text, also known as leading, is important for readability. If the lines are too close together, it can be hard to follow the text from one line to the next.

A good rule of thumb is to use a line height that is 1.5 times the font size. This means that if you’re using a 16px font, your line height should be 24px.

You can also add extra space between paragraphs to break up the text and make it easier to read. A margin of 20px or 30px is generally accepted as standard.

Person on Mobile Device

Responsive & Accessibility Typography

When it comes to website typography, there’s more to consider than just aesthetics.

Accessibility and responsive design play a huge role too. Think about it: with the sheer variety of devices, screen sizes and user needs out there, your typography has to be flexible and inclusive. 

It’s not just about making things look pretty, it’s about making sure everyone can actually read and engage with your content.

Supporting Screen Readers and Assistive Technologies

Here’s something to think about: Not everyone experiences your website typography visually.

Some users rely on screen readers or other assistive technologies to consume web content. 

That’s where semantic HTML comes in. You give your content structure and meaning using proper heading tags (H1, H2, etc.) and other semantic elements.

These help screen readers navigate and interpret your typography hierarchy more easily. 

It’s also important to make sure your font choices are compatible with assistive technology – when in doubt, stick with clean, legible typefaces.

Best Practices for Internationalisation and Localisation

If your website has a global audience, typography accessibility takes on a whole new dimension, as different languages and scripts have different typographic needs. 

For instance, some languages require larger font sizes or specific font stacks to ensure legibility.

Right-to-left scripts like Arabic or Hebrew might also require special attention to line breaking and text alignment. 

The key to getting this right is to do your research and test your typography with your target languages – what works for English might not work for Chinese or Hindi. 

It’s important to remember that internationalisation and localisation aren’t just about translating your content.

They’re also about adapting your website typography to create a seamless and wholly accessible experience for all users, regardless of language or location.

Website Copy

Web Font Performance & Optimisation

Website typography is about function as much as it’s about form. On the web, that means site speed performance

Think about how every font file you use adds to your page load time. In a world of short attention spans and mobile data limits, every second and every kilobyte counts. 

However, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for boring system fonts, you just need to know how to optimise your fonts correctly.

First, you need to determine how you are going to deliver your fonts to users’ devices. You’ve got a few options:

  1. System fonts: Fast and reliable, but limited creative control. 
  2. Web fonts: Endless possibilities, but can slow down your site if not optimised. 
  3. Icon fonts: Great for vector icons, but not so much for readable text. 

Optimising Font Files and Minimising File Size

File size is important when it comes to fonts, the larger your font files, the longer they take to load and the more data your users have to download.

That’s where font optimisation comes in. 

Subsetting your fonts, which involves removing unused characters and glyphs and then compressing them with tools like WOFF or WOFF2, allows you to significantly reduce file size without sacrificing quality.

However, optimisation is also impacted by file format.

Different browsers support different font formats, so it’s important to provide backups and use the most efficient format for each browser. 

Even optimised fonts can slow down your page if they’re not loaded efficiently. That’s where font loading strategies come in. 

One strategy is lazy loading your subsetted fonts, which means loading only the characters you need for above-the-fold content, then loading the rest asynchronously.

This way, users can read your content immediately without waiting for the full font file. 

Another strategy is to use a font loader like Google Fonts or Adobe Typekit. These services handle font optimisation and delivery for you so you can focus on design. 

The most important best practice you should implement is to test, test and test again.

Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to measure your font performance and identify areas for improvement.

Addressing Cross-Platform Rendering Issues

It’s important to remember that fonts don’t always look the same on every device or operating system.

What looks crisp and legible on your MacBook might look blurry and pixelated on an older Android phone, this is because different platforms have different rendering engines and anti-aliasing techniques.

Good designers need to account for those differences.

One way to manage cross-platform issues is to use fonts specifically designed for digital screens. These fonts are optimised for legibility across a wide range of devices and resolutions. 

Alternatively, you can use CSS properties like “webkit-font-smoothing” and “text-rendering” to fine-tune font rendering on different platforms.

But be careful, as these properties can also have unintended consequences if used incorrectly. The key to consistent cross-platform typography is thorough testing and iteration.

Review your designs on as many devices and browsers as possible and don’t be afraid to make tweaks and adjustments as needed.

Website Builder Designs

Final Thoughts

Think of typography as your secret weapon when crafting websites. It’s that powerful.

Carefully selecting typefaces, creating clear visual hierarchies and prioritising readability allows you to elevate your designs from “meh” to “magnificent”.

When you hit the sweet spot, your users will be happy and your conversion rates will make you happy too!

Be bold while being smart, creating designs that make your message impossible to ignore and your users eager to engage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is typography in web design?

Typography in web design refers to the art of arranging type to make the text both visually appealing and easy to read.

It encompasses font selection, size, layout, colour and spacing to enhance the overall user experience.

Why is typography important in web design?

Typography is crucial because it affects the readability, accessibility, and user experience of a website.

Good typography guides users through the content effectively, reinforces the message and contributes to the visual hierarchy of the design.

What are serif fonts in web design?

Serif fonts include small lines or extensions at the end of their strokes.

Known for their traditional appearance, they are often used in print and considered highly readable, making them suitable for large bodies of text in web design.

What are sans serif fonts in web design?

Sans serif fonts do not have extending features at the ends of their strokes.

With a modern and clean appearance, they are popular in digital media for their clarity and legibility, especially on various screen sizes and resolutions.

How do serif and sans serif fonts impact web readability?

Serif fonts are generally easier to read in printed works due to their distinct characters, while sans serif fonts offer better readability on digital screens, reducing eye strain in different lighting conditions and screen resolutions.

What are the best practices for choosing typography for a website?

When choosing typography for a website, consider the readability, brand identity and overall aesthetic.

Use a maximum of three typefaces to maintain a coherent look, and ensure text size and spacing are optimised for readability across devices.

How can typography improve website user experience?

Effective typography enhances user experience by organising content into digestible sections, guiding visitors attention and making the interaction with the site intuitive. It also helps convey the brand’s personality and values visually.

To your success,
Jackson