I Shot the Serif

Posted by on 30 Sep 2008 | Category: Hints & Tips

by David Cross

serif Which group of fonts is better for marketing efforts: Times, Palatino, and Bembo? Or Verdana, Helvetica, and Arial? Typeface lovers will immediately know the difference. The first three are serif fonts; the second three are sans-serif fonts. Why should you care? Because the type of font you use could affect the success of your business.

A serif is the small embellishment on the ends of the up-strokes (ascenders) or down-strokes (descenders) of some fonts. The serif gives the typeface a more "elegant" look and feel.

Whether you choose to use serif or sans-serif fonts seems like a super-small detail. But it’s one that every marketer should be aware of. Because if you make the wrong choice, you could be prohibiting your customers from reading your online [or offline] content and sales promotions. And if they can’t read your copy, there’s a good chance they won’t buy anything from you.

The general rule about fonts is as follows: For printed content, blocks of text using serif fonts are generally more legible. On a computer (or television) screen, sans-serif fonts are generally more legible.

Various usability studies have shown that people generally perform on-screen tasks more expediently and retain more information when reading sans-serif fonts. In Britain, sans-serif fonts are used almost exclusively as the default fonts on screen, precisely because they are more legible.

Here’s another reason why serif fonts may be less legible on screen than sans-serif fonts. To correctly display the nuances of serif fonts requires a resolution higher than most computer monitors can deliver. Most computer monitors operate between 72 and 96 dots per inch (dpi). At the font size of most on-screen content, there are not enough dots on your PC monitor to render the serifs accurately without making them look bitty or pixilated.

Finally, a caveat. Rules are there to be tested and broken. One of the advantages of doing business online is the ease with which you can test assumptions. So why not run a multivariate or A/B split test – one with a serif font and one with a sans-serif font – and see which pulls a better response?

This article appears courtesy of Early To Rise, the Internet’s most popular health, wealth, and success e-zine. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.earlytorise.com.

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