Webdesigners have been limited in their choice of fonts for quite some time now. Who doesn’t use Arial, Verdana, Courier, Helvetica, etc. The list isn’t very long as opposed to print designers. I think about 99% of all sites use Arial/Verdana/Helvetica/or a combination, although I’ve seen the use of Tahoma and “Trebuchet MS” rising. (NO, “Comic Sans” doesn’t look good!)
Nevertheless there hasn’t been much improvement on the type front for some years. This is due to several factors. First the required font has to be installed on the visitors computer. That narrows the choice to the pre-installed fonts by the OS. Although I think BitStream made an effort to embed type in webpages, I haven’t heard or seen anything from them for years. Then there is the resolution of the screens, what kind of screen you’re using (CRT, LCD or TFT), whether ClearType is enabled, what font-size you’re using, eye-fatigue, column-widths, and so on. In short, reading from a display is totally different from reading from paper.
Interesting read: In Search Of: The Best Online Reading Experience and Eight Things You Can Do Now To Improve On-Screen Readability.
There are ways to cheat. You can use images, replace headings dynamically or use Flash. But that isn’t very friendly on us webdesigners. Do you (or your clients) like to startup Photoshop or Flash everytime someone’s come up with a new article heading?
So what is it we’re looking for? More web-enabled fonts, that everybody has installed.
Enter ‘Longhorn’ (the next generation of Windows). Although that OS won’t be here untill (make your bets now) 2007, it’ll bring some relief. Because it’ll bring 6 (six!) new fonts that are presumably more or less web-enabled. In depth review here. But if you just want to see a preview look here (Flash). (Somehow the fonts all start with a C: Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantia and Corbel.)
So if it’ll be released in 2007 and everyone (and their mothers) have upgraded, it will be 2010+ before we (webdesigners) have some alternative to the gratuitous Arial and Verdana. …
More about Microsoft & Typography here.