Each operating system (OS) – Mac, PC, Linux – comes with its own pre-installed fonts. The most consistently installed web fonts (according to CSS Font Stack) include Arial, Georgia, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana.
Keep in mind usability studies show that your average website visitor cannot recognize the difference between fonts. Although they may know a sans-serif font from a serif font – visitors may rarely notice subtle design details like various font weights, which can heavily impact page load speed.
If you are interested in learning more about fonts, I highly recommend the captivating documentary film Helvetica. Hundreds of global companies use the “templatey” Helvetica font for their logos. The reason? It’s an awesome font that reads well. It doesn’t matter that the font is 50 years old; it has really not been improved upon.
On a lighter note, you might enjoy this great Ode to Comic Sans (NSFW).
If not implemented properly, alternative web fonts may not work well for websites for the following reasons:
- Font does not scale well at larger sizes, or displays numerals poorly
- Font does not look consistent between platforms or browsers
- Font ‘flickers’ on page load (when the default OS font, like Arial, is loaded just before the alternative font is loaded, visitors may see a ‘blink’ before the font is replaced.)
- Font slows down page load speed
- Font reduces readability
Custom web fonts can be helpful for rich-content sites with fewer visuals and/or weak branding. A distinguished-looking font can adds extra design flair to an otherwise flat look.
If you are still adamant about using alternative web fonts, here are 5 custom web font streaming services:
- Adobe Fonts (formerly Typekit) – included with Creative Cloud subscriptions; Adobe Edge fonts are available for free
- Fonts.com – fee-based fonts
- Google Fonts – the largest free provider of fonts
- Typography.com – plans start at $99/year for cloud-based subscriptions
- FontFabric – mostly paid