Is it Verdana? No

by cdwise 12. November 2008 23:35

A question that comes up frequently on many of the web design groups I belong to is "What is the best font for the web?" Frequently followed by "Is it Verdana?"

My answer is NO!

I guess that makes it clear what my opinion is, doesn't it. This is why.

In my opinion it is not Verdana because while Verdana is easy to read (developed for use on the web) it is a proprietary font that is only available on Windows or Mac computers that have Microsoft Office (or other MS Mac program) installed. Years ago it was available on all Macs but then IE used to be the default browser on the Mac. The issue with using Verdana is that it has a larger x/y ratio than any of the other fonts commonly used in a font family group. So if you size your font display based on Verdana and the visitor does not have Verdana the font may well be too small. Try typing a sentence using Verdana, do a <br /> and type the same sentence in Arial directly underneath the sentence so you can compare the two fonts in length and size. You should see a noticeable difference. Here is mine, the top sentence is in Vedana while the bottom one is in Arial. I'll throw in a third in Tahoma since that is the font I typically use in a sans-serif font group, as well:

This is my Verdana and Arial comparison.
This is my Verdana and Arial comparision.
This is my Verdana and Arial comparision.

Think about how that will work for visitors who don't have Verdana available.

There really is no "one" best font for the web because it depends on the site, the size of the font, even whether or not you are using the font for heading or body text. What you should be doing is using a font family group with your preferred font first then a series of fonts that are in the same font family ending in the generic font family name. Commonly used ones are:

Tahoma, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif
Georgia, Times, "Times New Roman", serif

Like Verdana both Tahoma and Georgia were created for use on the web. While both were also commissioned by Microsoft their x/y ratios are very close to Helvetica and Arial so there won't a significant sizing difference for visitors.

You may also have noticed that after Tahoma and Georgia I listed Helvetica and Times instead of Arial and Times New Roman. That is because those are the fonts most commonly found on the Mac and considered by many Mac users to be more readable/attractive than the generic Arial or Times New Roman. So why give them the more generic version of a font that is Mac native when you are giving those with Microsoft programs installed their native versions?


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