Typography is not just about putting legible text on a page. Legible is understandable for sure, but legible does not always mean that the user is involved in reading the text. Good typography is the catalyst for an emotional reaction. As the user goes through the words on the page, he or she is also interpreting and adding emotional twists to the meanings of those words. Flat and uninteresting typography does not inspire readers to try and understand the meaning behind the words, and when users feel no emotional connection to your story you lose out on a dedicated customer. Typography is not just an art of communicating information, but it is also the craft of communicating emotions. And an uninspiring design and text layout do not gel well with the nuanced craft of eliciting emotional responses through words.
Think of a website as a link to your customers and a means to start a dialogue. When a visitor lands on your page, he automatically becomes part of the conversation that you have designed. And the most important aspect of this conversation is the type you choose to display on your site. In July 2012, the New York Times ran an experiment in which readers were presented with a passage written out in different fonts. Participants believed they were taking a test to determine their personality types – whether they were pessimists or optimists. But in reality, the test only captured the reaction of the audience to the different font types. Six different typefaces were used in the experiment and of the 40,000 participants, the ones who were shown the formal Baskerville font tended to agree with the passage they were given to read. The other typefaces (including Comic Sans, and Helvetica) inspired only a sense of disbelief in the readers.
Have you ever wondered why writing in all caps is considered rude? It’s not just because it is the internet equivalent of yelling, it also has to do with the way a sentence typed in all caps makes you feel. It’s too uniform, too closed-in, and too impenetrable. Not the best feelings to inspire in your audience for sure! Words can come alive through your typography choices. So make sure you use the right design and typefaces to convey the right emotions to your audience.
When designing text layouts, the focus should not be on whether the text is legible. Instead, we need to shift the focus of our design to whether it is tempting enough for people to read. There are instances when a user has to force his way through badly designed sites in search of crucial info (scholarly research anyone?) but in most cases, you only have a few seconds before you have lost your reader forever to the quagmires of Facebook and Twitter updates. Just like a restaurant would not want their diners to go back home with a bad taste in their mouths, a web designer should never want the visitors to his site to fault his text layout. Good typography is essential in ensuring return visits, and in increasing customer retention.