Fonts for WordPress, Google Fonts, your own fonts, and why Microsoft is stupid

Hey y’all!

Today, I’d like to talk about fonts… yep, fonts.  It’s this designer’s opinion that typefaces and the combinations you use are the single most important consideration when designing, well, pretty much everything.  The use of one font over another can sometimes say as much or more than what’s written with them, but until relatively recently, using “unsupported” fonts meant sacrificing spider recognition and increasing page load times with images, and sometimes even reducing play-ability with Flash and other plug-ins.  Now I’m not saying that there weren’t ways around this… there always has been, but the “average web dev’er or DIY’er” simply didn’t have the time or skills to implement them, so they were basically useless.

Enter Google Fonts (& others like it)

These services made available both flexible libraries of fonts and the simplified tools to implement them.  A great start to resolving the long-standing inflexibility of the web, but oddly, there really wasn’t an obvious mass movement toward these services.  One reason was probably cost.  Many of the services offered premium fonts for a negligible annual fee, while others, like Google Fonts, were free, but had (at the time of their roll-outs) a very small collection of low-end fonts.

At the end of the day, both solutions failed to address what people actually wanted.  The ability to match the look and feel of their real-world marketing with their equivalents on the web and few, if any, provided replacement tables for fonts folks were probably using in the wild.

I’ll say that these providers are improving their services on a near daily basis.  Google’s library of Open Source Fonts has grown considerably since the service began, but is there a reason to wait until everyone catches up?  The answer is “probably not.”

How about just using your own fonts instead of “matching”?

This was the approach most wanted, and the one taken up by a great many designers, and fortunately for us, WordPress plug-in developers.

Imagine being able to simply load the same standard font you use in your printed materials, television ads, etc and use it freely in your site.  And imagine not having to know any code to do it.  That was the goal of Mordauk over at CodeCanyon.com, the developer of a great little plug-in called Font Uploader.  Once you’ve installed it, you’ll have the ability to upload fonts (ttf or otf) and use them in place of any web standard fonts with 100%* support of all browsers.  Yep.  That’s what I said.
Note:  This plug-in also allows you to use Google Fonts without requiring a separate plug-in.

Now don’t run off and grab it just yet…  There are a few things you need to know.

The name of the game is still “DESIGN”

Please, in the name of all that’s good, PLEASE don’t run off and upload all your Windows standard TrueTypes and use them all over your site.

Design tip #1:  With the exception of Arial, Georgia, and Times New Roman (all web standard fonts), if it’s a standard part of the Windows set, you don’t want to use it.  You can disagree all day long, but it’s the fact of the matter, so just don’t.

Design tip #2: Font pairing.  There are sites devoted to explaining what fonts go together and why they work.  Read them.  All of them.  There will be conflicting information all over the place, but it will expose you to both, the thinking involved in your choices and visual examples of what is or is not okay.

Design tip #3:  If there are more than 3 families in use, (yes, this is a generality, but “usually” a good rule to follow), you’re an idiot and should go hire someone to do this instead.

…wait!  There’s one more thing you need to know:

Why Micros0ft is stupid

First, let me say that I won’t be listing all the reasons.  Just the one that pertains to this post.  If you have any you’d like to add, feel free to add them to the comments.  There’s nothing I enjoy better than Microsoft bashing as of late, so have at it.  It’ll be fun.  Anyways…

Microsoft, being the failed standards thieves they are, decided that their market share entitled them to, once again, screw with the masses for no apparent reason.  The 100% guarantee of browser support is true, but you’re going to have to jump through MS Hoop 3.6 to make it happen.

* = As I said earlier, this plugin provides 100% support for your TT and OT fonts.  The problem is that Micros0ft supports neither.  Why you ask?  I’ll give you 3 guesses and the first two don’t count.  Yes, that’s it…  They don’t support them because they came up with their own web font standard called the EOT font.

So, if you want to use custom fonts that are viewable in Internet Explorer, you’re going to have to convert the font you want to use to a font Microsoft wants you to use.  Note:  I’m not aware of a way to do this from OTF to EOT at the moment, but there is an online service that will convert any TTF to a working EOT in seconds.  To use it, click here.  Likewise, you can use FontForge to convert OTFs to TTFs if you’re in a real bind.

So, that’s it for now.  “Go forth and fontify!” -Jster

Jon Hardison-

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