A long running issue for designers has been the limited fonts available for the Web. The best way to keep your sites loading fast is to use a Web-safe font. With Web-safe fonts you can be confident that visitors to your site have the font installed on their computers and it will display properly.
What fonts to choose is another matter. Opinions vary drastically and research is not conclusive, except that we all agree legibility is vital and we need to be considerate of readers with dyslexia. At the University, it is also important that we take into account the University of Texas at Austin Branding Guidelines about Typography. Read WebAim’s article, Typefaces and Fonts, for tips to design accessible typography systems.
How to use Non-Web-Safe Fonts
Standard practice is to supply fallback fonts. Web developers can supply a list of comma-separated font faces that can be used. The visitor’s computer will try to load the first font in the list. If it doesn’t find the font it will load one of the subsequent fonts. A font family, like san-serif, should end the list.The first san-serif font the computer finds will be displayed.
This technique doesn’t allow for a lot of control but has no effect on page load time. We recommend this technique for paragraphs and body text.
The simplest way to add various fonts to your site is to make optimized graphics with text but remember the more images you have the longer your page will take to load. Don’t forget to include alternate text that mimics the text on the image. Not only will this assist visually impaired visitors but search engines, like Google, will still find the keywords in your image.
@font-face Custom Font
This techniques provides fonts for the visitor to download. The less of the custom font you use on the page the better your page load time will be. This technique is not recommended for paragraph or body text.
Unfortunately, a significant number of people still use older versions of browsers that do not support this technique. Web developers using this technique need to specifying fallback fonts. They must also provide several versions of each font. Internet Explorer 9 only supports .eot. Latest versions of Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera support .ttf and .otf type fonts.
Also, the fonts provided must be open-source and licensed for distribution on the Web.
To bypass the licensing and version issues we recommend Google Web fonts. They provide hundreds of open-source fonts which they claim to have optimized for the Web. We’ve found them to still be quite slow.
Effects on page load time vary from font-to-font. There are some complex techniques to reduce the performance hit of custom fonts.
If you are still convinced that you must have a custom font, please contact the COFA Web team for assistance.
For a complete overview of fonts on the Web visit the Web Typography Wikipedia page. Fun video about the dilemma of choosing fonts from BrainCraft.