In Part One of this series, I reviewed three subscription-based web type services. In this second part, I’ll take a look at three download-oriented sites (where you host your own font files) – one paid service and two free ones.
Variable per-per-font download. Looks like a normal, high-quality font is $25/weight (News Gothic) for 10,000 pageviews/month. Prices go up from there based on quality and usage. I like this model! Why? 1) Pay for the right to use a font on websites. 2) Download the files and host them yourself. Common sense and easier for everyone involved – no recurring fees to manage. Very similar to buying fonts for print.
Library Size: A+
43,672 – that’s a lot!!
Typeface Quality: A
They’ve got a bit of everything, so getting to the good stuff can take a little work. But for serious typographers, there are a lot of high quality faces from good foundries are here.
Ease of Use: B
This is easy to use if you have set up @font-face before, since you host the files yourself and setup the CSS yourself. This is not terribly difficult and there are many tutorials on the web. The website is great – especially for trying to identify a font you don’t know the name of.
MyFonts’ self-hosted solution puts control over performance in your hands.
Nice to be able to browse and buy your print and web fonts in one place. MyFonts is a good place to start at the beginning of a project to make sure all your font licensing needs can be taken care of.
Learn more at MyFonts.com
What’s better than free?
Library Size: C
735 families – not bad…did I mention it’s free?
Typeface Quality: D
Well, you do indeed get what you pay for. There’s nothing awesome here, but there are a handful of decent, usable web fonts. I’ve used Font Squirrel for hobby projects and extremely budget-conscious clients. Be forewarned though, most options here tend to look a bit rookie…
Ease of Use: B-
Again, easy to use if you have set up @font-face before, since you host the files and setup the CSS yourself. The website is pretty good at helping you find faces.
Self-hosted puts control over performance in your hands.
You can usually get a desktop version of the fonts from FontSquirrel, which is handy if you need to do any print work.
Learn more at FontSquirrel.com
Free, free, free!
Library Size: C
For the brand that’s known for having the most online information on practically everything, their font offering is pretty paltry: 466 families. But for free, you can;t really complain.
Typeface Quality: C
A bit better than Font Squirrel but many of these faces are duplicates of what Font Squirrel and also have that same dollar-store vibe to them.
Ease of Use: B
Again, easy to use if you have set up @font-face before, since you host the files and setup the CSS yourself.
Another Google product…Pretty soon, we won’t need any other company for anything!
Learn more at Google Web Fonts
And the winner is…
So, these are the six web font offerings we use most frequently in the studio. There are many more out there that I didn’t review —not because they’re awful, just because we don’t have a lot of firsthand experience with them.
If I had to pick my favorite from this list, I’d go with Typekit. $50/year is pretty easy to handle for essentially unlimited access to a really solid (and growing) library. They also have the backing of Adobe which has some pretty deep pockets to improve the quality, reliability, and depth of the service.
Regardless of which service you use, web type is finally here and it is good for everyone. Designers are free to use typography in ways that were difficult, if not impossible only a few years ago—and developers don’t have to fuss around with bloated replacement techniques like SiFR and Cufon anymore.
But the big winner is brands. Brand consistency across print and web is incredibly important, and until recently, was one of the major hurdles online that stood in their way.
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Foundation for the Public's Health
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