The Power of Open Fonts
The Power of Open Fonts avatar

A PlusWhen we recently launched the redesign of the Black Cap Design website, I remember thinking ‘this wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago’.  I’m referring specifically to the use of open fonts.  The distinctive look of our new site is due in large part to the use of open fonts.  In fact all of the fonts you see on this page are open fonts!

Until (roughly) 2010, the Web supported just a handful of fonts.  The reason?  To work, a font needed to be installed on the end-user’s computer.

Clients would come to us and say ‘I found this cool typeface and I want to use it on my website’. In order for that cool font to work for everyone, it had to be supported by Windows, Mac and Linux (the 3 major operating systems) AND be installed on each end-user’s computer.

One popular alternative was to render fonts as images (pictures that looked like text).  While this looked pretty good, images are not search friendly and are time consuming (and therefore costly) to update.

These restrictions meant we had about 13 Web-safe fonts to choose from.  Fast forward to 2013 and we now have well over 600 fonts to choose from.   What happened?

Long before 2010, somebody had a simple and bright idea.  Why not store the font files on the hosting server and and send the font information to the end-user instead of depending on the end user to have the font installed on his or her computer?  Yeah, why not?!  Because fonts are protected by copyright laws.  Posting them on a hosting server where they could be shared freely would be a copyright violation. 

Fortunately, the collaborative spirit of the Internet came to the rescue.  Typographers from all over the world have been creating fonts for free distribution on the Web resulting in a veritable open font cornucopia.  Here are a few places to explore the wealth of open font options on the Web:

The abundance of open fonts on the Web led to the development in 2009 of the Web Open Font Format (WOFF) which enables the use of open fonts in Web browsers.  The governing body for the World Wide Web (the W3C) supported this initiative and all modern Web browsers now support WOFF open fonts. 

What does this mean?  It means that if you find an open font that you really like, it’s now possible for your Web Developer to use a service like the FontSquirrel Webfont Generator to install fonts on your hosting server.  In other words, you’re no longer stuck with a just a handful of font options for your website.

 On top of that, in 2010 Google released their Google Fonts library.  Google has taken the unique approach of storing a growing collection of open fonts on their own servers, and allowing websites free access to those font files.  A year ago, that number was roughly 300.  Today there are over 630 fonts available in their collection.  All that’s required is to add a few lines of code – which Google supplies – to your website.  Each time someone visits your site, your website will fetch the font information from Google and display it.  Google even provides a meter showing how much this will slow down your page loads (the more fonts you add, the slower your pages will load, so it’s a good idea to limit the number to 2 or 3 fonts).

In Conclusion…

There’s nothing wrong sticking with tried & true Web-safe fonts.  But if you want an effective and easy way of giving your site a distinctive look while making all of the text search-friendly, consider adding one or more open fonts to your site. 

For more information about integrating open fonts into your website, please feel free to contact us by phone at 705-927-2308 or by email at .