So you want your website to display a certain font, huh? Well before you go down the road of taking the time to run down the broad list of your options it is important to understand how fonts work. The reason for this is because if you choose a vague font to display your text the chances are good that your website visitor will not actually be able to see that font.

Before we go into further detail lets understand what a font is. It is easiest to think of each individual font as a computer program. When you are in your text editor, like Microsoft Word, and you see a long list of fonts it is because you have all of those fonts individually installed on your computer. Similarly, if you see a very short list of fonts it is because you do not have too many installed. If someone were to send you a text document with a font specified that is not installed on your computer, you would not be able to view that font. So basically this means that you can ONLY view fonts in documents that are installed on your computer.

What does this have to do with a font on a web page? Fonts on web pages are essentially the same as a font in a Word doc. When you visit a web page the code on that page tells your computer what font to view the page in. If your computer does not have the specified font installed, it will use your browser’s default font (like Arial) to view the web page.

So what does all this mean? This means that it is important to consult your web page designer before actually choosing a font for the content of your web page. You want it to be uniform for all visitors and there is a small list of fonts that are typically safe to assume are installed on all computers.

Here is a general list of safe fonts to use:

  • Arial
  • Lucide
  • Times New Roman
  • Impact
  • Tahoma
  • Courier New
  • Comic Sans
  • Verdana
  • Georgia
  • Garamond

Your web designer can define multiple fonts to be used in case one is not installed on the users computer. Its almost like a backup plan. When loading the web page your computer will go down the list and check for each font in order of preference until it finds one that is installed or gets to the end of the list and loads the browser’s default font.

In conclusion, we now know that it is important to choose a font for your web page that is standard on most computers and is not going to vary too much when displayed on different systems.

For more reading on fonts visit this nice MIT website that covers more detail.

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