Typography on the Web

HTML was created with the intent of putting the ultimate control of presentation in the hands of the end-user. This principle makes its most resounding impact when it comes to typography. The stark fact of web design as we know it today is that there is no way of knowing exactly how your text is going to look. Take a look at your browser’s preferences and you will find that you (and every other surfer) are able to specify the fonts and sizes that you prefer for online viewing.

For anyone accustomed to designing for other media, this loss of font control is cause for major frustration. From the time they discovered the Web, designers (and their corporate clients) have been pushing for ways to control typography in order to produce attractive and predictable web sites.

Great strides have been made in this effort since the early days of the Web and HTML 1.0; however, as of this writing, the font issue is still unfolding. This section discusses possible strategies and technologies (along with their advantages and disadvantages) for designing type in web documents. It also addresses the issue of using foreign (non-western) characters on web pages.

You Have Two Fonts

About the only thing you can be sure of when you’re designing web pages with basic HTML is that you have two fonts to work with: a proportional font, and a fixed-width font. The problem is that you don’t know specifically which ones or at what size they will be displayed.

Proportional font

A proportional font ...

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