Farewell, web safe fonts

I’ve begun work on a redesign of this site (as everyone does on an almost monthly basis) and one of my aims was to see how fast I could get the site in terms of performance, what with that being the big thing lately (as well it should be).

One of my target areas would be to reduce the number of requests on a page and to minimise the amount of, if not completely remove the need for, JavaScript.

And as much as I love typography and the almost endless amount of time you can spend flicking through the likes of TypeKit just to find the right typefaces for your preferences or personality, I thought that I could make the site faster overall by passing up the beautiful web font options and resorting to web-safe fonts. You know; Georgia, Arial and the like.

I was also quite looking forward to the challenge of creating an easy-on-the-eye, readable experience with what I imagine most web designers consider to be the most basic of available typefaces. The “bottom of the barrel” as it were.

However, whilst watching a Typecast seminar recording on Mobile First Typography & Layout by Jordan Moore, I was told that:

“There is no such thing as a web-safe system font anymore.”

And it’s true.

Jordan has put together TINYTYPE, a compatibility table showing the available system fonts across different mobile platforms. Although, as he states in his seminar, it turned out to be more of an incompatibility table.

Without employing web fonts, we are no longer able to provide a consistent typographical style across all platforms.

And it’s Android’s fault.

According to Jordan’s compatibility table, Android only ships with 4 fonts; Droid Sans, Droid Serif, Droid Sans Mono and Roboto. So using a small font stack like font-family: Georgia, serif; would not give me Georgia as my chosen typeface across all devices. Android, not having this font installed as a default, would resort to Droid Serif.

Obviously this isn’t the end of the world in terms of web typography and the graceful degradation we’ve come to expect from using font stacks in our CSS. Just like the rest of the web and the incessant advances that are constantly occurring, the world of web fonts will only become stronger, more reliable and easier to use over time.

For the last few years I’ve only really been employing the artists formerly known as web safe fonts as fallbacks for some wonderful typefaces, I just feel a little sad that there is no such thing as a web safe font any more.

Call me sentimental, but I’m going to miss the reliable foundation those system fonts gave us, from when I first used them as the only options I had available back in the earliest days of my career, through to today, and the last moments that I can use these old friends as a trusty fall back.

Farewell old friends, I’ll pop by the bottom of my font stacks from time to time to make sure you’re still hanging in there.


A good workman never blames his tools

As the saying goes, “A good workman never blames his tools”. And yet, over the last year or so, there has been huge growth in the emphasis placed on tools and workflow. So much so that the definition of being a good designer or developer is becoming blurred with how proficient you are with a given set of tools.

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How to scare thousands of people in the shortest time possible

Or “The worst way to announce school admissions on a website”.

Setting the scene

It’s the day before you are due to find out if your child is going to get his or her place in the first step in to the education system.

As a parent you’ve spent endless hours researching local schools, pouring through Ofsted reports, factoring in the distances for the school runs, and countless other things to make the right decision for the little person in your life.

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The human element of accessibility

I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at Second Wednesday this month, and was even luckier to be given a choice of dates at which I could speak. When I found out that my fellow speaker on my chosen night, Kimberley Tew, would be speaking about accessibility, it was a no-brainer for me.

I wrote a little bit about the issue I see with our knowledge on accessibility a little while back, but what I witnessed on the night absolutely hammered home the true impact of what poorly built site can have on a person. On another human being.

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Wot I Learned from Dan Eden at Hey!Stac

As speaking now seems to be one of those things that I now do, there are some great benefits that come along with it, and for me, the biggest of those benefits is getting to hear other people giving talks.

Hey!Stac was put on by We Are Stac, with Josh Nesbitt acting as compere at The Faversham in Leeds.

Dan Eden, who was nominated for .net Magazine’s “Brilliant Newcomer of The Year” award earlier this year, was first to take the stage on the night. I initially recognised Dan from said nominations, and a quick Google later and I realised I’d already played around with one of his creations, namely Animate.css.

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What I mean by responsive design

A retweet, courtesy of Mark Asquith, popped up in my Twitter timeline regarding an article on Econsultancy titled “What do you mean by responsive design?”.

An interesting and thought provoking article, and the main point I took away was made at the very end;

There is no way we would promise to build a client ‘a website’ without defining specifics. Why then are we happy to promise to build a ‘responsive site’ while leaving the exact nature of what that means rather vague?

This is an extremely good point, and it’s one that I have been thinking about a lot over the past month or so.

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Are fixed headers a waste of space?

At this moment I’m trying to decide whether we should recommend using a sticky header for a new web project.

My immediate instinct is simply “yes”.

But is that down to personal taste? I do like the ability to jump to any part of a site, especially if I’ve scrolled down whilst reading through a long article. So yes, this is my personal taste.

For me, as much as I position myself as an expert when working on a client project, my word should not be taken for granted. Sure, I know what I’m doing, I’ve spent over 12 years doing it, but I don’t know everything. Far from it.

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