Remember when the only web fonts you could use was restricted to a handful of web safe typefaces like Times, Arial or Verdana? You don’t have to look back very far.
“You can’t use that typeface, it’s not Times, Arial or Verdana. It’s not for you, that Interstate typeface, you can’t use Interstate, you should use Times, Arial or Verdana” dark days for web typography. Remember when you could only dream of adding a custom type to your web design? Nasty wasn’t it?
One of the big web trends of 2010/2011 was the use of custom typefaces. Even before that designers were already experimenting with cufon, sIFR and FLIR. Apart from sounding like a new strain of bird flu, none of these solutions were perfect. “I like it but it’s not perfect – can we just use Verdana, cus Verdana works on my screen. I like that lovely font, but please just use Verdana”. GGGGrrrrr! We needed a better solution – something that just worked.
Quietly, in the background, while we were messing with sIFR, there was another solution. It was just waiting to be discovered. That solution was @font-face. Okay so it still sounds pants, but at least it has font in its name. @font-face gradually gained momentum – it was David v Goliath and we all know how that panned out. @font-face was by far the simplest and most reliable solution. In short it was a game changer – and it wiped the floor with everything else.
With the good work of Paul Irish and Font Squirrel the ability to have any typeface on your design turned out not to be stuff and nonsense but a real possibility. With Font Squirrel helping you get all the fonts in the correct formats the whole process became relatively easy.
Those dark days are nearly gone now and a whole world of typographic possibilities are available for us type-starved web designers. And the icing on the cake, yes it gets better, is that there are now more providers of web ready typefaces than you can shake a stick at.
So if you want to avoid getting your hands dirty converting your own faces, I’ve put together a quick list of type services, who provide hassle-free solutions. Enjoy.
Offers a free solution for 1 website. Costs around $100 dollars a year for full access to their type library. They are now owned by Adobe so I can see their library just growing and growing. They have one of the largest web ready type collections.
Advantages – Large collection of web ready faces. Easy to setup.
Google – Font library is not as big as typekit, but the whole collection is free, and its really easy to use.
Advantages – Its free. Totally free, and its very easy to implement, no registration required – did I mention its ridiculously easy and quick to implement.
Disadvantages – Type range is limited. Sometimes it takes longer to load.
Offers a nice collection of free fonts and also includes the @font-face generator so you can create your own web font kits.
Advantages – Its free. Generate your own font kits, quickly and easily.
Disadvantages – Font range is limited compared to other services, and some are not the best quality.
Offers 30-day free trial. The pricing structure varies from $40 to $800 per year, the collection is quite large and contains some very nice typefaces. The website also contains some good information about how type renders across different operating systems.
Advantages – 30 day free trial.
Disadvantages – Not the biggest collection of fonts.
Pay for the fonts that you need, when you need them. Each font is priced individually and the typical cost is £7.50 per year, per font. The good thing about font deck is that you can try all their fonts for free, forever. However that is only for 20 unique users, but that should be plenty, useful for testing.
Advantages – Large collection of fonts from lots of different foundries and designers.
Disadvantages – Could get expensive paying for each font per year however some might find this an advantage.
Offers free trials for all their fonts. (30 days) You can have a hosted font service at around $40 per year. The collection itself is large and includes one of our favorites – interstate.
Advantages – Offers free trial, good range of quality typefaces.
Disadvantages – Could get expensive.
With typefront you upload your own fonts if you have a web license for them. So it offers no fonts at all, is a diy service for hosting your font only. Offers a free, try it out service for 1 font, with 500 requests per day. If you upload more fonts its going to cost you around $15 per mth.
Advantages – Host your own fonts on a super fast server
Disadvantages – No fonts offered – you supply them.
Has a large selection of fonts that vary in price. Basically with font spring you buy the font with a web license, so it has no subscription fee. The advantage of that is you can use it as many times as you like, with no page view or domain limits – but its up to you to implement it. That’s no problem as its really easy to implement anyway. Depending on your point of view this can actually be easier, as you can buy the font and forget about it. No yearly or monthly fees, no slow service, simples.
Advantages – Big selection of fonts. No subscriptions. You own the font.
Disadvantages – Could become expensive.