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A Guide to Web Font Providers

A few years ago, before web fonts became the standard for websites and other digital applications, users were either limited to a handful of web-safe fonts or were forced to convert existing desktop fonts into pseudo web fonts using some sketchy plugins. Nowadays, most fonts available for purchase on sites like myfonts.com give the user the option to purchase a web font version. These fonts that are optimized for the web ensure that they are rendered as sharply as possible on your websites. 

We’ve used a variety of services to deliver web fonts over the years. Through our experience have found advantages in a few select providers.

Google Fonts

Google Fonts has three distinct advantages that make it ideal for many freelancers and small businesses:

  • It requires no sign-up
  • It’s open source and free
  • The deployment of fonts is fast

One thing they offer [that a lot of other services don’t] is the ability to download their fonts to your desktop for use in design comps. Google Fonts also tends to be faster; if a user visits a different website using the same font, it is already pre-loaded when they visit yours.

Previously, Google Fonts’ disadvantage was their limited library selection. Simply put, the quality and number of fonts did not match that of other similar services. However, in the last couple of years, this has changed massively. There are now over 900 fonts available for use – free of charge! Users can now find the fonts that they need more easily by adjusting the filters for categories, language and font properties. These adjustable font properties include:

  • Number of styles (if the font has multiple weights available)
  • Thickness
  • Slant
  • Width

Google Fonts also has a feature called variable fonts. This means that users aren’t limited to the typical font weights. For example, if the designer wants a font-weight that’s in between regular (400) and medium (500), they can scale the font-weight to whatever number they desire.

A gif of Google Fonts' variable fonts feature

If a client isn’t ready to fork over hundreds of dollars on fonts, users can often find close enough duplicates of other fonts on Google Fonts.

MyFonts and Other Pay-Per-Font Services

Service providers such as MyFonts are great solutions when you have a good budget and you need something tailored to your brand. The advantage is that you can download and host the web font files directly from your web server. Generally, these pay-per-font platforms have the best selection of fonts on the web. The trade-off is the high purchase price and manual nature of setting up the fonts on some platforms.

Why We’ve Moved Away From Adobe Fonts (formerly Typekit)

Adobe Fonts has an extensive font library that allows for better flexibility and quality of fonts. As this is a subscription service that’s bundled with Adobe Suite, the typefaces are not open source. This means you will have to pay to use most of them. The upside is that this usually means high quality fonts from well-known foundries. The website itself has an extensive filtering system for those perfectionists among us.

The disadvantage of Adobe Fonts is that it requires the user to pay for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. This can be frustrating if you are a designer recommending fonts to clients for a project. Adobe no longer allows the designer to host the client’s web project on their Creative Cloud account as of December 2019. The client is forced to use their own Creative Cloud account or to purchase a subscription in order to use the fonts on their website. If your subscription were to expire without renewal, you would have to re-work the website’s layout or find another suitable font from a different service. 

Adobe Fonts can be useful for testing different fonts for client mockups, however, you need to ensure that the web fonts you choose are also purchasable on the original font foundry’s website.


Note: This post was originally published in May 2012. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.