The Problem & Solution to Web Fonts

As a web developer, you must look at your options: stunning design or browser compatibility?

There is a huge difference between designing for today’s browsers like Chrome and Safari, and designing for “ancient” systems like Internet Explorer and Opera. Web developers and graphic designers use completely different assets and techniques to grow accustomed to new requirements, but one aspect remains the same: fonts.

The situation currently sits as a pro and a con for designers. Although there has been an explosion of unique fonts since CSS2’s addition of @font-face (embedding fonts), there has also been a struggle for web browsers to render these fonts correctly.

It’s hard enough to find a unique font nowadays, let alone finding one that will render correctly across all browsers. This issue can often times cause a huge speed bump in what should be a smooth and swift process. Is the solution to produce a lower quantity of typeface with higher quality?

Today, browsers support Web font systems using a valid CSS structure. This makes fonts work correctly and display clearly, no matter what size they are inputted. However, just like everything on the Internet, as old browsers changed and new ones came into play, valid CSS became an interchangeable language across systems, breaking left and right as fonts were added.

In order for web design to reach the next level there must be an abundant amount of fonts to use and use correctly. Steps have been taken since this problem arose in 2008. Adobe’s Typekit developed a system of serving fonts that had type designers taking bigger leaps from paper designs to desktop and mobile. This was revolutionary for type designers who wanted to develop their own unique typefaces. Fonts were no longer just a standard addition to Web development, but rather a larger part of design, with endless choices.

Depositphotos_5531824_mSince this introduction, most browsers support web font syntax, there are thousands of fonts to choose from, and services are constantly being improved. It all sounds great, right? Wrong. Half the time spent on fonts is finding one that is appropriate (that is, doesn’t have flowers and flames protruding off of each case’s corners) while the other half is finding one that works well in CSS. The odds of finding success in both are rather slim.

The real issue lies with what web developers need. There is an overflow of font types, ranging from calligraphy to three-dimensional typeface, conveniently listed by thousands of font providers within thousands of categories of typefaces. A large part of producing an original design is wading through a sea of web fonts to find not only a unique design, but also an appropriate one.

In conclusion, our problems with browser compatibility still lie within Web fonts. Although font providers “say” they have thousands of fonts that are perfectly rendered, they only offer a small sliver of functioning font types. What we need is the big picture: appropriate, unique font types with flawless browser compatibilities.

For web developers, check out the closest thing to perfect: Monotype

One Response to “The Problem & Solution to Web Fonts”

  1. Tara Viola

    The creation and revival of quality typefaces that address modern context, production and technology? Thanks, I’m sold.


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