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Web Design Mistakes - Text and Fonts

By Breal Web Design
Posted Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The main purpose people use the Internet is for research, according to most user surveys. While not specifying the kind of research being done, it is safe to assume that people are spending a lot of time online reading.

Unless a site is meant to be full of graphics, such as an art gallery or promotional page for a graphic designer, the use of graphics should be minimal. To learn more about using graphics, send a blank e-mail to

Your site should be easy to read. There are literally thousands of fonts out there, so why shouldn't you use a special one? Because not everyone looking at your web site will have the font installed on their computer. Your visitor will be looking at your page with their installed fonts. Mac users have different default fonts to IBM and compatible users too.

So how do you cater to the masses? There are a few fonts that are installed by default on most computers and it's best to stick with them (for example: Times New Roman, Arial, Courier or Verdana).

When using these fonts you can specify them in your font tags or in your CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) files. Always include alternatives for different browsers to choose from. Using a font tag for example: your text or <"FONT-FACE="Times New Roman, Times, serif">your text

The worst text and font mistakes include:

ø Making your text too small to read easily. If you are using a style to specify a font size, ensure your font is not under 10 points. The exception to this is the 'fine print' such as a link to your privacy policy or other documentation you are legally required to display.

ø L-o-n-g copy. You don't get your visitor's attention for long. Many readers will stop at 2 or 3 web pages (around 1000 words) or they'll start to skim your document and could easily miss important information. If you have miles of text one on page, you could consider splitting it up into sub pages. Try creating a summarised main version and use descriptive links to more pages.

ø Using similar coloured background and text. Ensure your text has enough contrast for viewers to read easily.

ø Using garish or extreme background and text colour combinations. Nothing puts me (and thousands of other web users) off faster than trying to read text on a garish background colour. Keep text easy to read.

ø ALL CAPITALS. THIS IS THE EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING AT YOUR SITE VISITORS! It's also much harder to read a document only written in capitals. It is acceptable for headings.

ø Flashing text, scrolling text and other 'special effects'. Flashing text is not pleasant to watch and puts people off. The only place scrolling text should appear is in tickers and news headlines (and only in the former, in my opinion, as it's very hard to read).

ø Multiple fonts. A good quality professional document will not use more than 2 or 3 fonts on a page. This rule applies both offline and online. Too many fonts are distracting, so if you want variety, decide on one font for the headings, and one for the text - then stick to them throughout your document. When designing a web site, it is best to maintain consistency throughout the site by sticking with the same fonts on every page.

If you do want to use a non standard font in your web page, try making it into a graphic. You can do this easily with a graphic editor. Just set the canvas to transparent, type your word or phrase with your desired font, then save it as a .GIF.

If you haven't specified an absolute text size in your style sheets or font tags, your font size can be changed by your site visitor. On Internet Explorer, it's 'Text Size' on the 'View' menu. So, if you want to fix your font size, ensure it's large enough for the majority of people to read, as older people will want text at 11 or 12 points or higher.

Look around on the web and you'll see plenty of good and bad examples of text. If you're in doubt about your work, leave your masterpiece a day or two, then take a fresh look at it. And, ask a couple of friends to have a look and let you know what they think.

About the Author
Breal provides cost effective web site design and hosting
with a full 30 day money back guarantee. Web hosting even
comes with six months free hosting on yearly accounts. To
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