The advantages of using fonts other than Times, Arial, Georgia, and Verdana have long been obvious to designers; it’s why web design in the 1990s was divided between pages done in Flash, and HTML pages containing pictures of fonts—a practice that still, bizarrely, continues even in occasionally otherwise advanced recent sites.
Using real fonts instead of pictures of fonts or outlines of fonts provides speed and accessibility advantages.
Currently the Webkit-based Apple Safari browser supports @font-face. The soon-to-be-released next versions of Opera Software’s Opera browser, Google’s Webkit-based Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox will do likewise. When I say “soon-to-be-released,” I mean any day now. When this occurs, all browsers except IE will support @font-face.
IE has, however, offered font embedding since IE4 via Embedded OpenType (.EOT), a font format that enables real fonts to be temporarily embedded in web pages. That is, the reader sees the font while reading the page, but cannot download (“steal”) the font afterwards. Microsoft has “grant[ed] to the W3C a perpetual, nonexclusive, royalty-free, world-wide right and license under any Microsoft copyrights on this contribution, to copy, publish and distribute the contribution under the W3C document licenses,” in hopes that EOT would thereby become a standard. But so far, only Microsoft’s own browsers support EOT.
Thus, as we consider integrating real fonts into our designs, we must navigate between browsers that support @font-face now (Safari), those that will do so soon (Opera, Chrome, Firefox), and the one that possibly never will (IE, with a dwindling but still overwhelming market share).
The person who figures out a designer-friendly solution to all this will either be hailed as a hero/heroine or get rich. Meanwhile, near-complete solutions of varying implementation difficulty exist. Read on:
“Instead of making pictures of fonts, the actual font files can be linked to and retrieved from the web. This way, designers can use TrueType fonts without having to freeze the text as background images.” An introduction to @font-face by Håkon Wium Lie, father of CSS.
Is there life after Georgia? To understand issues surrounding web fonts from the type designer’s perspective, I interview David Berlow, co-founder of The Font Bureau, Inc, and the ?rst TrueType type designer.
Kilian Valkhof: “Everyone wants @font-face to work everywhere, but as it stands, it only works in Safari and the upcoming versions of Firefox and Opera. In this article I’ll show you how to use Cufón only if we can’t load the font through other, faster methods.”
Update May 28, 2009: Working with Jason Santa Maria, Jeff Veen’s company Small Batch Inc. introduces Typekit:
We’ve been working with foundries to develop a consistent web-only font linking license. We’ve built a technology platform that lets us to host both free and commercial fonts in a way that is incredibly fast, smoothes out differences in how browsers handle type, and offers the level of protection that type designers need without resorting to annoying and ineffective DRM.
Web Fonts, HTML 5 Roundup: Worthwhile reading on the hot new web font proposals, and on HTML 5/CSS 3 basics, plus a demo of advanced HTML 5 trickery. — 20 July 2009
Web Fonts Now, for real: David Berlow of The Font Bureau has proposed a Permissions Table for OpenType that can be implemented immediately to turn raw fonts into web fonts without any wrappers or other nonsense. If adopted, it will enable type designers to license their work for web use, and web designers to create pages that use real fonts via the CSS @font-face standard. — 16 July 2009
In “Universal Internet Explorer 6 CSS,” Andy Clarke proposes a novel approach to the problem that has vexed standards-based designers since time immemorial (or at least since we could quit worrying about Netscape 4).
After a brief but thorough tour of current IE6 solutions and their limitations, Andy unveils his zinger. He proposes to serve IE6 users a set of universal styles completely unrelated to the design of the site in question. Not unlike Arc90’s awesome Readability plug-in, the styles Andy has designed concern themselves with typographic hierarchy and whitespace. Here’s the theory: make the page easy to read, make it obvious that somebody designed it, and the IE6 user will have a good experience.
(By contrast, block styles from IE6, as some developers suggest, and that user will have a bad experience. Most likely, in the absence of styles, the user will think the page is broken.)
No hammer fits all nails, and no solution, however elegant, will work for every situation. But if we’re open minded, Andy’s proposal may work in more situations than we at first suspect. Where it works, it’s what business folk call a “win, win:” the visitor has a good reading experience, and client and developer are spared tedium and expense.
Armed with nothing more than a keen eye, a good seat, a fine camera, and the ability to use it, An Event Apart Seattle attendee Warren Parsons captured the entire two-day show in crisp and loving detail. Presenting, for your viewing pleasure, An Event Apart Seattle 2009 – a set on Flickr.
When you’ve paged your way through those, have a gander at Think Brownstone’s extraordinary sketches of AEA Seattle.
Thanks for the great feedback, folks. For those who find the orange background objectionable, I’ll offer a user-selectable alternate color scheme, like this one (quick sketch, ignore the color of the printer’s mark at the top, final colors may vary).
I’m designing from the content out. Meaning that I designed the middle of the page (the part you read) first. Because that’s what this site is about.
When I was satisfied that it was not only readable but actually encouraged reading, I brought in colors and started working on the footer. (The colors, I need not point out to longtime visitors, hearken back to the zeldman.com brand as it was in the 1990s.)
The footer, I reckoned, was the right place for my literary and software products.
I designed the grid in my head, verified it on sketch paper, and laid out the footer bits in Photoshop just to make sure they fit and looked right. Essentially, though, this is a design process that takes place outside Photoshop. That is, it starts in my head, gets interpreted via CSS, viewed in a browser, and tweaked.
Do not interpret this as me dumping on Photoshop. I love Photoshop and could not live or work without it. But especially for a simple site focused on reading, I find it quicker and easier to tweak font settings in code than to laboriously render pages in Photoshop.
If you view source, I haven’t optimized the CSS. (There’s no sense in doing so yet, as I still have to design the top of the page.)
I thought about waiting till I was finished before showing anything. That, after all, is what any sensible designer would do. But this site has a long history of redesigning in public, and the current design has been with us at least four years too long. Since I can’t snap my fingers and change it, sharing is the next best thing.
I wrote this book in 2001 for print designers whose clients want websites, print art directors who’d like to move into full–time web and interaction design, homepage creators who are ready to turn pro, and professionals who seek to deepen their web skills and understanding.
Here we are in 2009, and print designers and art directors are scrambling to move into web and interaction design.
The dot-com crash killed this book. Now it lives again. While browser references and modem speeds may reek of 2001, much of the advice about transitioning to the web still holds true.
I discuss “open source design” in an excerpt from a long interview at Big Think. The full interview, with a complete transcript, will soon be available there as well.
BigThink’s Merrell Hambleton did a great deal of research prior to conducting the hour-long interview, and was thereby able, not only to probe typical Zeldman topics in greater depth, but also to ask interesting questions outside my comfort zone.
The interview was carried out via Interrotron, a fascinating device invented by Errol Morris.
Join Eric Meyer and your humble host with truly special guest speakers Jason Santa Maria, Jeremy Keith, Joshua Porter, Whitney Hess, Dan Cederholm, Daniel Mall, Derek Featherstone, Aarron Walter, Scott Thomas, Heather Champ, Andy Clarke, and GoodBarry’s Brett Welch for two days of design, code, and content.
An intensely educational two-day conference for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design, An Event Apart brings together thirteen of the leading minds in web design for two days of non-stop inspiration and enlightenment. If you care about code as well as content, usability as well as design, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.
The panel was about quitting your job (or coping with a layoff), working as a freelancer, collaborating with others, and what to do if your collaboration starts morphing into an agency. We sought to answer questions like these:
What business and personal skills are required to start a freelance business or a small agency? Is freelancing or starting a small agency a good fit for my talents and abilities?
Is freelancing or starting a small agency the right work solution for me in a scary and rapidly shrinking economy? Can the downsides of this economy work to my advantage as a freelancer or small agency head?
I’ve been downsized/laid off/I’m stuck in a dead-end job working longer hours for less money. Should I look for a new job or take the plunge and go freelance?
What can I expect in terms of income and financial security if I switch from a staff job to freelancing? What techniques can I use as a freelancer to protect myself from the inevitable ups and downs?
How do I attract clients? How much in-advance work do I need to line up before I can quit my job?
How do I manage clients? What client expectations that are normal for in-house or big agency work must I deliver on as a freelancer or the head of a small or virtual agency? Which expectations can I discard? How do I tell my client what to expect?
Do I need an office? What are the absolute minimum tools I need to start out as a one-person shop?
How big can my freelance business grow before I need to recast it as a small agency?
What models are out there for starting an agency besides the conventional Inc. model with all its overhead? Which model would work best for me?
Who do I know with whom I could start a small or virtual agency? What should I look for in my partners? What should I beware of?
If I’m lucky enough to be growing, how do I protect my creative product and my professional reputation while adding new people and taking on more assignments?
How big can my agency grow before it sucks? How I can grow a business that’s dedicated to staying small?
New at WebProfessional.org: in Careers in the Web Profession, WOW’s Bill Culver interviews your humble narrator and Scott Fegette, Technical Product Manager for Dreamweaver at Adobe about the joys, sorrows, challenges, and opportunities of a professional web career.
WebProfessional.org aims to promote the web professional by:
defining and promoting the title
providing resources that will assist Web professional to succeed
serving as a bridge between practitioners and those that teach, governments and industry
A key to running successful “social networking sites” is to remember that they’re just communities. All communities, online or off, have one thing in common: members want to belong—to feel like part of something larger than themselves. Communicating effectively, setting clear and specific expectations, mentoring contributors, playing with trends, offering rewards, and praising liberally (but not excessively) can harness your members’ innate desires—and nurture great content in the process.
Asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, modesty, intimacy, and the suggestion of a natural process: these attributes of elegant design may seem relevant only to a project’s aesthetics. But the most successful web designs reflect these considerations at every stage, from idea to finished product. Bring heart to the experiences you create by infusing them with intelligence that transcends aesthetics and reflects the imperfection of the natural world.