The internet has brought us a lot of great things – a global community, reduced barriers for reaching an audience, extraordinary convenience – and who doesn’t love kitten videos? But with the good comes the bad, and one of the worst things that the internet has brought us – right up there with free iPad offers and the cesspool that is the Youtube comments section – is bad typography.
Ok, maybe that last one only applies if you’re a designer who values their craft. But much like the internet has devalued the quality of the written word, it has also lowered the quality of its presentation. People actually cared about typography back when newspapers had to set each letter manually and run their printing press overnight, just to get a single publication out the door. Now, any halfwit can go on dafont.com and download a quarter million fonts.
Hint: Just because you can use “Papyrus” or “Hobo”, doesn’t mean you should. Here are some common typography abominations that are sure to raise any designer’s blood pressure.
Type That’s Poorly Justified
This seems to happen when people are so technologically illiterate they can’t find the button to change text from justified to left-aligned, or they’re simply too obtuse to notice the difference. If you can’t notice large rivers of white space running through your text, you shouldn’t be allowed to publish on the web.
When amateurs use text in images, it’s not uncommon to see pixilated, poorly scaled font. Type is meant to look crisp and sharp, not fuzzy around the edges.
Ever see paragraphs with heavily uneven margins? When you see random lines poking out from a body of text, this is known as a rag. Rags are distracting and ugly, and should always be eliminated.
Yes, the wide array of browser types, mobile devices, screen resolutions, and other random factors make it more difficult to manage the presentation of web typography compared to print. However, a good designer will always find a way to make sure their paragraphs are presented straight and relatively crisp around the edges.
Columns That Are Too Wide or Too Short
There’s nothing more irritating than coming across a site that has blocks of text that span the entire width of your screen. Having to scroll too far across a screen makes it hard for readers to focus on the text, and when the columns are too short the eye has to travel back and forth far too often, which breaks up the reader’s rhythm.
Professionals know that there are certain column widths that make reading easier on the eyes. While there is no hard and fixed rule, a good general guideline is to aim for a 45-75 character line length.
Overuse of Emphasis and All Caps
It’s ok to use italics, underline, or bold once in awhile, but don’t use it constantly, and definitely don’t use it all at once. GOT IT??
Any Violation of the Form Follows Function Rule
This is probably the worst typography abomination, because it’s most often committed by designers who should know better. In the late 90s up to the mid 2000s, flash layouts were the biggest offenders here. Fortunately, there hasn’t been a massive failure quite as egregious as all-flash websites, but chronic offenses still remain. It’s still ridiculous when blocks of text use eye-straining font colors, tiny font sizes, have poor leading (the vertical space between lines), poor tracking (the space between words), or poor kerning (the space between letters).
It’s one thing if you do it for your own little artsy-fartsy portfolio, but it’s another thing entirely when you do it for clients who are relying on you to produce work that helps them improve their business. Remember, the goal of design is not to stroke your own ego. If your font or layout choice doesn’t let the viewer read effortlessly, then choose something else. We all want to create something breathtaking and beautiful, but it should never be at the expense of functionality.
All Included Images are copyrighted by the Author.
Article by Blake
Blake is a blogging for the email marketing system provider Jangomail.