For years, many websites relied on the same fonts to display messaging and symbols to visitors. However, fonts have grown much more dynamic in the past five years. There are also plenty of fonts that you probably wanted to use on a website but found that there was no way to display them correctly on ever browser.
Web safe fonts are the new standard in web design. These fonts work across all browsers and devices. Previously, if the user’s computer did not have the font stored, they might see a totally different font such as Times New Roman or Verdana. To avoid this, web developers came up with a way to display the right font no matter what font was installed in the user’s computer.
There are only a few web-safe fonts / css fonts that are considered universal. However, designers can use current web css fonts that are almost universal across modern browsers and email applications.
These web-safe css fonts included:
Times New Roman
However,some web fonts are designed for use on all types of applications and websites as well.
Some of the new css fonts that are considered popular include:
These fonts are also used in emails. You may have worried in the past about using a specific font in email because it wouldn’t display correctly. Web-safe design changes all of that.
Much of web design today comes down to the web design assets and most importantly, the fonts you select. While you can use Google Web Fonts and Typekit to create web pages with web fonts, you will still need to design with web-safe fonts in mind. This is because not every user will have access to those fonts, even if they are stored by Google. This means that if you want to display to a user on an older browser, you still need to have a default or web-safe font selected.
Should You Use Web Safe Fonts?
In short, every website you see online today is likely already using a web-safe css font. This is to prevent Times New Roman from showing up on someone’s Internet Explorer browser if they have an old machine or if they are on a bad connection and can’t load web fonts from a Typekit. There are also issues from having different operating systems. Visitors don’t necessarily know what font you selected because most people don’t look at source code to understand why everything is suddenly in Times New Roman.
Designers and website owners need to specify the types of fonts to display. If you want to display a sans serif font like Lato, then you should have a web-safe font installed as well, such as Arial to ensure that the site looks somewhat similar to the design if the user is unable to load your web font.
Email and Web Fonts
Web fonts are pretty much universal in modern browsers today. You shouldn’t find too many users who are unable to load them. However, it’s a little different for email clients. There are a few email clients that support web fonts including:
You can use different methods for designing emails with web fonts. For example, the @Import method lets you import Google and Typekit fonts into the email through a piece of code.
You can also use the < link > method to install a web font service in the email’s code. This method is different and performs a little bit better in all email clients over the import method.
You can also try the font-family method, which is the least successful.
In each case, you still want to make sure that you have a default font selected just in case the user is unable to view your web font.
How to Use Web Fonts
You can navigate to Google or Typekit to get the code to use for the web font. You can search a library of available fonts, including serif, sans-serif, handwriting, and more. Each font will have its own unique code that you can use in your web design.
Here are a few different font kits to choose from online:
This is one of the most popular options today. You can load hundreds of different fonts through Google. It’s completely free, and you can download web fonts right to your computer to help you mock up designs in your favorite design program. They work with Adobe and Sketch.
Typekit by Adobe
This is another option that many designers use if they already work with Adobe. You can use Adobe’s font subscription service to build out fonts using CSS within Adobe as part of your design. It’s a great option for web design and development teams who work closely together.
Other Web Fonts
You may also want to try some of these services if you are looking for more selections. Most of these have a higher cost.
Process Type Foundry
You can purchase the fonts and licenses directly from the authors with these choices above.
Remember to Test Your Fonts
Before going live with a website or sending an email, you should always test your fonts on multiple browsers and email clients. You should know if your web fonts are going to display correctly or if you are using the right web-safe fonts to prevent your users from seeing a totally different font style that will muck up your design.
Correct Use of Web-Safe Fonts
While you can install a Google Font rather quickly, you may not be aware of when to use web-safe fonts. It’s important that wherever you have a font-family that uses a web font that you also specify a default or web-safe font. This may simply mean that you put, “font-family: Montserrat, Arial, Sans Serif;” in the code. While the computer will try to load the web font Montserrat first, it will default to Arial as the web-safe font.
The Long List Of The Best Safe Web Fonts
‘sans-serif’: normal fonts without serifs
Arial ( sans-serif )
Arial is one of the most popular and widely used san serif fonts in the world. It’s metrically identical to Helvetica and is often mistaken for Helvetica. Originally created to look like Helvetica so that printers didn’t have to pay the licence to use Helvetica. So really Arial is nothing but an imposter to the font world.
Arial Black ( sans-serif )
This is the bolder version of basic Arial font and is big and bold to say the least. Ideal for a headers rather than body copy.
Helvetica ( sans-serif )
Helvetica is everyone’s favourite fall back font. If all else fails then at least you have Helvetica to make things better.
Verdana ( sans-serif )
Another solid font that is very popular in print and on the web. Its a true web font due to its simple structure, streamlines and large, clear letters. While close to Arial and Helvetica, Verdana is an older sans serif font that can be a bit large when displayed. Its typeface has elongated lines, so be careful when using this font in certain web designs.
Trebuchet MS ( sans-serif )
This sans-serif font was designed by Vincent Connare for the Microsoft corporation in 1996. This font is most commonly used in body copy throughout the internet and is a very popular font for that purpose.
Gill Sans ( sans-serif )
Gill Sans is a sans-serif typeface with a touch of modernity. A part of the humanist family, this font has a handwritten quality that guides the eye horizontally. This makes Gill Sans ideal for reading long passages.
Noto Sans ( sans-serif )
Noto Sans is a part of the Noto font family. The Noto family was made to create visual continuity among different languages and symbols across the internet. This makes Noto Sans a great choice for multilingual passages and a safe choice for any website.
Optima ( sans-serif )
Like Gill Sans, Optima is a humanist typeface with organic, handwritten qualities. The font is reminiscent of ancient Roman text and adds a regal air to any webpage. It is one of the most enduringly popular fonts of its kind and is widely used for logos and names.
Arial Narrow ( sans-serif )
Arial Narrow is one of the most popular fonts because of its versatility. Its intentionally generic design makes the typeface a good choice for large bodies of text. Because the Arial font family is available on Mac and Windows, you will not have to worry about visual discrepancies across operating systems.
‘serif’: normal fonts with serifs
Times ( serif )
Times font is a traditional newspaper print font. One of the most recognisable fonts in the world.
Times New Roman ( serif )
Time New Roman is the most popular serif font and is what Arial is to the san-serif family of fonts. Used mainly on Windows devices and applications, Times New Roman is the updated and newer version of Times font.
Didot ( serif )
Didot is an old French typeface originally used for printing presses. It is a serif font, which means each letter is stylized with small lines. Didot is known for its elegant aesthetic, and for that reason it adds a formal quality to text.
Georgia ( serif )
Georgia, like Didot, is a serif font with an elegant air. Its thick strokes make it a great choice for webpage text because it is legible on low-resolution screens. For this reason, it is commonly used on e-readers.
Palatino ( serif )
Palatino is a serif font that is also a part of the humanist typeface family. It is largely used in headings and titles because of its solid structure. Palatino’s wide availability make it a safe font for website text.
Bookman ( serif )
Bookman is a serif typeface. Also known as Bookman Old Style, this classic font has a bold and stalky structure. Its simple, stalky design makes Bookman a great choice for large passages of small text.
New Century Schoolbook ( serif )
As the name suggests, New Century Schoolbook is a serif font created specifically for body text. The typeface is quite nostalgic, as the font appears in many early-reader textbooks. Like Bookman, New Century Schoolbook is a good font choice for large bodies of text.
American Typewriter ( serif )
American Typewriter is a serif font that imitates typewriter text. The versatility of its predecessor makes this font a good choice for body text. The typeface also boasts a classic and nostalgic quality that adds a stylized air to any webpage.
‘monospace’: fixed-width fonts
Andale Mono ( monospace )
Andale Mono is a monospaced sans-serif font. This means that each letter is the same width, giving the typeface a mechanical quality. Versions of this font support several different languages, making it a good choice for multilingual websites.
Courier New ( monospace )
You have probably seen a few websites with this older style newspaper-esque font. While similar to Times New Roman, it’s outdated. However, if you are looking for a simple monospace font, this would be the right choice.
Courier ( monospace )
Courier is a monospaced serif font reminiscent of typewriter text. It is the default text for many email providers and is virtually universal because of its royalty-free roots. The font is also widely used in coding and computer programming.
FreeMono ( monospace )
FreeMono is a lesser-known monospaced font that is a part of the GNU FreeFont project. Like the monospaced fonts described above, this font is reminiscent of typewriter text and has a mechanical quality. As the name suggests, it is completely free.
‘cursive’: fonts that emulate handwriting
Comic Sans MS ( cursive)
Comic Sans is the font people love to hate. Its a “don’t take yourself too seriously” type of font. A bit of fun. But if you’re serious about design, don’t use it haha!
Apple Chancery ( cursive )
Apple Chancery is a cursive font created by Apple Inc. It is an elegant typeface that evokes a formal impression. This makes it a wonderful choice for a sophisticated website.
Bradley Hand ( cursive )
Bradley Hand is a calligraphic typeface based on the handwriting of Richard Bradley. The font has a casual and personal quality which differs from most cursive fonts. It is a good choice for short bodies of text and headings.
Brush Script MT ( cursive )
Brush Script MT is another calligraphic typeface that is based on casual handwriting. The typeface is a bit more formal than Bradley Hand, but still retains a personal quality. Its bold and unique style make it a common logo font.
‘fantasy’: decorative fonts, for titles, etc.
Impact ( fantasy )
Impact works best as a headline font, especially if its only a few words. Really not suitable in body text. Looks awful.
Luminari ( fantasy )
Luminari is a fantasy style font that is reminiscent of medieval handwriting. It evokes thoughts of fairytales and gothic church text. This makes Luminari a great font for adding a whimsical or gothic quality to a webpage.
Chalkduster ( fantasy )
As its name suggests, Chalkduster is a font that mimics chalk on a blackboard. Because the chalkboard is nearly inseparable from the grade school classroom, this font is a wonderful addition to any educational webpage. Its bold and detailed style make it best suited for short text and headings.
Jazz LET ( fantasy )
Jazz LET is a typeface that conjures visions of The Great Gatsby. This font is a great way to evoke the roaring ’20s in a webpage. Like Chalkduster, it is a bold and detailed font that is best suited for short text and headings.
Blippo ( fantasy )
Blippo is one of the boldest fonts in this list. Each character was styled using the shape of the rectangle and circle. Its robust nature makes Blippo a great font for quirky titles and headings.
Stencil Std ( fantasy )
As the name suggests, Stencil Std is a typeface based off of stenciled lettering. The effect is a loud-natured font with attitude. This typeface is best utilized in bold titles and headings.
Marker Felt ( fantasy )
Marker Felt is a font based on handwriting performed with a felt-tipped marker. The lettering even includes the residual dot at the end of each marker stroke. Marker Felt is a great choice for educational websites because of its resemblance to writing from a dry erase marker.
Trattatello ( fantasy )
Trattatello, the last typeface on this list, is a style of font based on Chinese calligraphy. It brings an elegant and mysterious quality to any passage. This makes Trattatello a wonderful choice for poetry and short passages.