Only until recently, web designers and developers have had to rely on a small group of “web safe” fonts. In the past few years there has been an emergence of new web-font tools.
What does this mean for designers? These tools are opening the door to beautiful typography and design variation across the web. What does it mean for clients? Quite simply, webfonts can help contribute to a focused brand identity and add value to the user experience.
The playing field is expanding quickly and there are many webfont services available. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll compare three widely adopted options: Google Fonts, Typekit, and Fontdeck. Each product has it’s own advantages and limitations, and knowing the differences is key to determining which service best suits the project.
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, and 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.
The disadvantage of Google Fonts is their limited library selection. Simply put, the quality and number of fonts does not match that of other similar services.
Typekit has an extensive font library that allows for better flexibility and quality of fonts. The typefaces are not open source, which 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.
One of the biggest disadvantages of a library so large is that you cannot download the fonts to your desktop. This can be frustrating if you are a designer tasked with creating a mockup for a client. Another detriment is that once you use a font from their library, you are somewhat locked into the service [since it’s an annual fee]. 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.
Fontdeck is similar to Typekit; it is a yearly based service. What sets it apart is filling in the gaps that make Typekit unappealing. Fontdeck has a pay-per-font model where you can pay a la carte for each individual font. It also allows you to test any font from their library on your website for free. This is to compensate for not being able to download the fonts to your desktop. This takes out some of the guesswork in designing, and doesn’t require a locked-in and up-front payment.
Their library isn’t as large as competitors, although users will find many of the same typefaces that are popular on sites such as Typekit (like the often-used Proxima Nova).
|Price||Free||Subscription||À la Carte Subscription|
|Quality||Moderate||High Quality||High Quality|
Here are some examples of our use of webfonts on recent projects: