Anyone whose been involved with creating websites will know that the use of a web standard (web safe) font has always been the recommended approach to ensure consistent results online. That means a font that all, or at least the vast majority of users already have installed on their computers.
If you wanted to use a different font anywhere on the page then the main option was to turn that into a graphic. This technique was pretty much restricted to headings only, and whilst using graphical headings might have made the page look nice, its a poor option for SEO.
But times are changing. There have been attempts to rectify this situation over the last 10 years, and in that time I’ve tried the main methods such as: sIFR (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement), Typeface.js and Cufon, in the hope that one would really push on and gain widespread support.
However, it’s only in the last few years where there has been a real push to increase support of @font-face (a technology that has actually been around since the late nineties) across web browsers that has opened the door for Web Fonts and finally given us real font choice online.
Web Font services, with the best known being TypeKit, have been around for a while, but when Google jumped on board with Google Fonts API the world started to take note.
These services allow you to link your website to hosted fonts on their servers (either via subscription or currently in Google’s case for free) which means that you can use that font on your website in the knowledge that everyone viewing your site will see your choice of font, whether they have it on their computer or not.
You can also host your own Web Font (with conversion tools being available online to turn standard fonts into Web Fonts), one thing to watch out for here is font licencing (EULA or copyrights) as some fonts require separate licences for use as a Web Font. If you don’t have a copy of the licence to hand then check the foundry that produced the font for guidance before going down this route.
In the last few months, more and more Web Font services have opened up, indicating a real demand for Web Fonts, so with a bit of luck 2012 will be the year that cements @font-face and Web Fonts into the mainstream.
As different fonts start to appear online a complimentary trend has become apparent, which is for the use of a larger font-size for body copy. This has been inspired by legibility issues caused by a mix of font choice and (more notably) device size, and is another trend to watch out for in 2012.
For more information on this, or any of the points raised, please get in touch.