Do you spend money on a product if the presentation looks unprofessional? Case in point: As my husband and I approached a small family restaurant, I spotted two hand-scrawled signs in the window: Help Wanted. Cook Wanted.
Warning signals went off, but hunger prevailed. Once inside, we discovered that everything operated at the pace of a turtle. Food: adequate. When it came time to get our bill, we waited. And waited. Finally, we left our tip on the table and walked to the cash register. We weren’t upset. The owner/manager had our sympathy (but they lost us as customers).
Whether in the brick-and-mortar or brick-and-click world, people appreciate polished presentations, because this generally means they’ll find a good product and/or service. Let’s define “polish” and some of its components. The suggestions below aren’t for glamour or glitz, but for readability.
FONTS ON PAPER
Most of us use serif fonts (like Times Roman & Times New Roman) for text. This type of font is designed so the reader’s eye moves smoothly from letter to letter. The little squiggles (serifs) that are part of the letters are part of that process.
Traditionally, sans serif fonts (no squiggles) are often used for headings, accounting, data entry, etc. They also complement serif fonts.
Today’s home and office (ink jet & laser) printers usually operate at a minimum of 300dpi (dots per inch). At 300dpi and higher, both types of fonts are readable.
FONTS ON THE WEB
Most screen resolutions are set at 72-100dpi. Web typography experts often suggest that at this low resolution, Web designers offer the best readability by using sans serif fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana. This will undoubtedly change in years to come, but slowly. Most users will not replace their current monitors simply because better resolution is available. Designers may be the biggest exception. And who doesn’t love the wider, bigger screens?
Browsers usually default to Times Roman (Macs), and Times New Roman (PCs). I used Arial and Helvetica for the body text of this article. It may be worthwhile to use a sans serif font throughout the site, but it also takes time to add the required codes. NOTE: Some browsers ignore certain font commands/coding in tables if they are placed only at the beginning and end of an unordered or ordered list.
You may need to code for each bulleted or numbered item within each table cell or they may default to Times Roman or Times New Roman. It’s a judgment call. This is usually just for HTML. Most of today’s websites use Content Management Systems (CMS).
The text on a user’s screen is almost always controlled by the fonts the user has on his/her system. That’s why most designers using HTML give a minimum of two choices when writing the font face command. Some users, for various reasons, control the specific font and size their browser uses. Size is another, more difficult issue. You may learn that you can’t please all the people all the time!!
Read more about both of these issues and see examples in the Web Style Guide. Tip: Regardless of the font size, people using Windows can press the Ctrl key and the plus key together and increase the size.