Web Design is 95% Typography

This makes a catchy title, but it is simply untrue… Commentary on an article appearing on the Information Architects Japan site.

If it were true, then users would devote significant time to reading all the text provided on websites instead of only skimming words now and then. It would also mean that as long as sites have good typography they would automatically make compelling sites. This is seldom true. Imagery is often a key component to pulling users into a site. The adage a picture is worth a thousand words rings especially true on the web where reading is uncommon and scanning is prevalent. Good typography is important in design and is indicator of the designer’s abilities and training. However, most people scarcely distinguish between serif or san-serif fonts let alone either kerning or leading. Therefore, typography is an unheralded artform that improves readability but is not necessarily a showstopper when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of websites.

Typography is still more important in print than on the web where glossy pieces printed in high resolution can be read leisurely. Poor typography stands out in print like scars on an apple in the supermarket. On the web typographic gaffes are more like subtle bruises on fruit left undiscovered until the shopper returns home with the less than perfect commodity.

Good typography should be a legitimate goal in a successful design, admired by designers, studied by design students, a tool in improved usability, and appreciated by readers. At the risk of appearing iconoclastic—on the web, typography seldom meets these criteria. Finally, in the case of the aforementioned article, it merely comes across like an elitist, measuring stick for designers to claim their work is of greater value than the work done by their peers. ;)

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