“Words are powerful” is certainly a threadbare cliché, but it’s one that, despite its overuse, remains true. What we say and how we say it has a major impact on our audience’s response. On a subtler, more subliminal level, so does typeface. Font, color, and weight are not just matters of aesthetics. They make deep-seated psychological impressions on how people read, comprehend, and judge that content.
With consumer skepticism at all-time high, all branches of marketing must design their messaging more carefully than ever. According to a study by Insights in Marketing, 74% of people believe ad content is untrustworthy, and 69% are skeptical of the information relayed about products, despite ad spending increasing by billions year after year. In order to combat this and increase consumer confidence, businesses must be detail-focused when creating content by best leveraging every tool available in an effort to win over customers. This is where typeface and font become indispensable. They are essential points of contact between you and your audience, yet they are often overlooked for seemingly more pressing concerns. However, there are four chief reasons why fonts and typeface matter more than you think:
In 2012, the New York Times conducted an experiment on their readership by publishing a two-piece article online, the first piece of which was a veiled test of the effect of typeface on credulity. The idea behind the test was to see if readers would respond negatively to such identifiably true statements as “Gold has an atomic weight of 79” if it is presented in Comic Sans. The Times presented a fact-filled article on pessimism and optimism, which appeared to different sets of readers in one of six different typefaces. Forty-five thousand readers were then quizzed on the believability of the conclusions reached in the article. Did typeface matter? Oh yes. The informal Comic Sans inspired the most ire and dismissal, while the more formal Baskerville was the most trustworthy. The results were so definitive, even the experimenters were surprised at the extent of typefaces’ influence over reader psychology and its overshadowing straightforward, factual content.
Thirty-one percent of your web page visitors leave within seconds, deciding your page isn’t an easy route to the information or service they need. Readability is key to audience engagement–if a web page’s lettering is too small or words are often broken by hyphenation due to mishandled line length, very few people will have the patience to continue. The colors and color contrasts you choose, the number of times you change fonts or even font weights, and the typeface itself also contribute to whether or not a web surfer slows their paddle and stays with your page. When it comes to readability and typeface, there are few hard and fast rules, but just keep it simple. Use as many typefaces as you need, but as few as possible. Shift colors and weights mainly for headlines or subheaders. Body copy tends to be size 10 – 12.12.
Because serif and sans serif fonts encourage different kinds of reading, they’re used in different formats, for different purposes. Serifs, slight projections off of the letter, draw the eye horizontally and help the eye differentiate between letters, making the process of reading less taxing, especially for denser content. Sans serif, which lacks serifs (hence the “sans”), is best used for direct, precise communication like headlines or short pieces of copy. Due to major pixelation differences between print and online formats–books have 1,000 dots per inch, desktop screens have 100–sans serif’s more stripped down simplicity is often better for legibility in online material while serif is better for printed material.
A consideration when designing content should be, “how will the reader consume the content?” Typography can help control eye flow and direct attention to best suit your goals. The Nielsen Norman Group has found that readers don’t read every word of your text; instead, they scan it in an F-shape. Eye mapping technology has shown that readers’ eyes move horizontally across the top line left to right before moving down the leftmost margin, with each movement down corresponding to less movement horizontally, resulting in a pattern that resembles the letter F. Using attention-grabbing typefaces of varying sizes, colors, and color contrasts in headers and subheadings can help adapt your content to this pattern, making it easier for readers to scan and find what they’re seeking. It’s difficult to arrange all your key information along the left margin, but slight changes in typeface, such as different weights or color, that don’t sacrifice readability can draw the reader’s eye, too. The results: a happy audience, higher conversions, and greater customer loyalty.
Creating content that engages, encourages trust and wins your audience over is the goal of every business. Now you have one more tool in your tool belt to reach those goals – typeface. Do you have thoughts on how typeface and fonts influence readers? Share them below.