There are a few general text design rules that work for both websites and printed marketing pieces, and I figured I might as well talk about those here as well.

  • Don’t use every font in your computer. It’s tempting to use a whole lot of different fonts, to call attention to different parts of your text and to make things “look cool”. But, this winds up looking very unprofessional.

Switching fonts often makes your text more difficult to read. Your reader gets used to seeing one particular font, and can get faster and faster at reading your text as they read more of it. And, that’s good for you – the more comfortable they are physically while reading your text, the better they’ll feel about what you’ve written. So, using fonts consistently can help them to adjust to your writing and to be more receptive to your ideas.

If you’re designing your own website, or if you want a really simple and clean look, then there’s nothing wrong with just using one type of text for the design, and varying the sizes and colors to distinguish one type of text from another.

If you do choose to use a couple of different fonts in the text, make sure that the characteristics of the fonts all complement each other. Georgia and Verdana are two fonts that have a good bit of contrast with one another, but also have enough similarities to look good together on the page.

I recommend that a small business use no more than 3 font styles online. This includes the font in your logo, the font used for your navigation buttons, and the fonts used for your headline and body copy. The same rule of thumb applies in print, but of course you don’rt

  • Vary the size of your text and the color to distinguish one type of text from another. For example, if you used 12 point Verdana for everything on your piece – the title, the body copy, the sidebars, even the copyright – it will look too boring and even starts to look like a mistake to your reader. People are used to seeing some variation in headlines, subheads, body copy, etc.
    • Headline: It’s a good rule of thumb to make the headline the biggest text on the page. You can also use a color from your Visual Vocabulary to make your headline more visually interesting.
    • Subhead: This can be a good tool to give readers more information about the page’s topic. It’s also a great way to give emphasis to additional phrases for the Search Engines – the engines pay more attention to headlines and subheads.

    A subhead should be smaller than the headline, but bigger than the body copy. It can also be in a color from your Visual Vocabulary, but it should be in a different color than the headline for variation.

  • Body Copy: Most of the text on your site will be body copy, and this text should be large enough to be easy to read.
  • Copyright: Your website should have a copyright statement at the bottom, and this text can be pretty small.
  • Use emphasis wisely. You can use several effects in both printed and online text to add emphasis: capitalizing a word, bolding text or using italics. While all of these can work well to emphasize small bits of text, using them on a large section of text can make that text hard to read – and your reader might just skip over it rather than struggle with it.
  • I’ll talk more about how to call attention to larger blocks of text in the next post.

    Also, underlining is another way to call attention to text in printed materials. But, I don’t recommend using it on websites – and I’ll talk more about that in the next post as well.

  • Don’t use Comic Sans. Please! For some reason that baffles me, Comic Sans is the font of choice for many small business owners creating their own first website. It may be because the font has character, but is still easy to read. Or, perhaps it seems friendly and approachable.
  • Either way, this font is a poor choice for your website text – it’s unprofessional, childish and hard to read. Stick to serif and sans serif fonts and avoid handwriting fonts, script fonts and display faces that are hard to read.