In the past choosing an accessible, readable font for your website wasn’t difficult, basically because you didn’t have many fonts to choose from. You were restricted to using ‘web safe’ fonts, i.e. those fonts that were likely to be installed on your visitors computers.

Lots of energy and creativity has been spent trying to get around this restriction – from automatically replacing text with images and flash/Javascript based solutions.

Using images instead of text has clear accessibility problems, as did the Flash/Javascript solutions (which tended to be buggy and difficult to implement).

None of these solutions was more than a sticking plaster on the basic problems that designers were not free to use the fonts they wanted to when designing a website.

One current solution is to ‘rent’ the fonts you want to appear on your site, i.e. a third party owns lots of nice fonts which you can use on your website; and when a visitor loads your web page your desired font is downloaded from that third-party site and used to display your content.

If the users browser doesn’t support this new font download solution – the fonts specified in the CSS are displayed; so what we have is a relatively easy to use, robust and accessible solution to the font problem. That is, as long as the designer has chosen fonts that look nice and are readable across the different platforms and browsers, i.e. not all fonts will look good on a low resolution computer screen.

It is a very simple solution, but it does have the drawback that you pay for the privilege. Business being business it’s not a case of a one off-payment; to continue to use the fonts you continue to pay for the on-going service of being able to download and use them.

The two main players are Typekit (aquired by Adobe) and Font deck


  • Jeffrey Zeldman: My Love/Hate Affair With Typekit:
  • Typekit
  • Font Deck

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