When thinking about web design elements, it’s pretty easy to gloss over font selection. This is especially true for people who are only amateurs and are using consumer design templates which offer limited options for typeface. Professional web service providers, on the other hand, should understand that small but essential features like font selection can have a subtle impact on user experience which rivals the effects of grander web design elements.
Subtlety is often under-valued in its own right. But big, flashy displays of web design prowess are ultimately less important to long-term effectiveness than simple competency and understanding of the target audience. Font selection is a prime conduit for expressing both of these things. Visitors may not praise the web design of a site they use every day, but they’re using it for a reason, and part of that reason is that its most basic elements are engaging to the viewer and pleasing to look at.
Conversely, when a website is badly designed, elements like font selection can actively repel the viewer. Again, people who stop visiting such a sit may not have anything specific to say about how poor the web design was, but no one is very likely to ask them why it gave them headaches or why they found it hard to read. That’s all the average person needs to know. Meanwhile, a web design professional needs to understand the “how” and “why” of those effects, and be capable of not just avoiding them but also affirming their opposite.
There are, of course, exceptions to a visitor’s usual obliviousness to fonts and other subtle web design elements. Twitter recently provided a representative example of this when it unveiled updates to its website and mobile app. As with virtually all such updates, the sudden changes riled some users and prompted them to ask the age-old question, “If it wasn’t broken, why fix it?” But now that those changes have been in effect for a few weeks, most of the complaints have died down, as users have no doubt found Twitter’s new font to be as appropriate to the site as its predecessor, if not more so.
This goes to that subtle but important web design elements are often invisible right up until the point when they aren’t. And once they become visible, they either expose problems that casual users and inexperienced site owners weren’t consciously aware of, or they reveal a flawed thought process behind the updates that have been made. In either case, the result contributes to the never-ending process of data-collection, learning, and growth that drives effective web design and web development.
Whether you’re a design professional, a site owner, or both, it’s important for you to always remain engaged in that process, and to apply its results across the board, to both the largest and the smallest elements of your web design product.