What’s the best font for your website?

Arial or Magneto? Learn the psychology behind fonts and which is best for you.

If you think it’s up to your designer, you’re wrong.

There are designers who focus on how your website looks, but you’re running a business. You want a font that looks great and performs well.

A font’s main purpose is to be read. If you or your designer attempt to use a “cutesy” font because you think it looks nice, you’re doing it wrong—really wrong.

There isn’t one right font, but there is a right group of fonts: simple or fancy. To determine the perfect combination of fonts, keep reading.

The psychology of simple fonts

Two researchers, Hyunjin Song and Norbet Schwartz, discovered an unusual trend during an experiment.

There were two groups of people. One group received directions in a simple font, Arial, and the other group received directions in a fancy, or harder to read font, Brush.

The people who received the simple font estimated it would take 8.2 minutes to complete the directions whereas the people who received the complex font estimated that it would take 15.1 minutes to complete.

A simple font change, and people estimated that directions would take around 86 percent longer.

What’s that mean to you?

When you’re giving people directions, a simple font can make them assume the task is easier than it really may be. Additionally, when people see simple fonts, it’s more unassuming, and it looks easier to read.

The psychology of fancy, hard to read, fonts

The same two researchers, Hyunjin Song and Norbet Schwartz, made another discovery.

Again, there were two groups of people. One group of people received a menu printed in a simple font, and the other received it in a fancy font.

The people who received the fancy font menu assumed that the chef preparing the meal had more skill.

A simple font tweak, and bam! An iron chef must be in the kitchen!

What’s this mean to you?

When you’re selling products, clever use of a fancy font can help you convey to your readers that more effort went into creating them.

Which to use

On the Web, you can use fancy fonts on sidebar headings, taglines, or something small, as long as you don’t overdo it.

Your main font should be a simple font. It’s important to create contrast between your fonts. You’ll want a font for your headlines, another font for your body copy, and potentially an accent font.

As an example, on Social Triggers, I use Helvetica Neue for my headlines, Georgia for my body copy, and another font for my sidebar headings and logo.

You’ll see it looks cohesive because I’m using that simple font selection formula.

As a rule of thumb, refrain from using more than two or three different font types on your site. It becomes confusing and your design goes from distinguished to disgusting.

Don’t forget font size

No matter which font you choose, the size of your font is critical. When people visit a website, a primary reason they distrust the site is font size.

There are too many people who use a size 12 font for their content, and that’s a huge mistake. Small fonts hurt conversion rates and usability.

I’m in my 20s and I can barely see size 12 without doing that Mac zoom thing, and that’s why I’ve been telling people that size 14 is the new size 12.

But if you want to go bigger, I’d say size 16 is the new size 12.

So, right now, look at your site. What’s your font size? Are you scaring people away with a small font?

Derek Halpern is the founder of Social Triggers, where a version of this article originally ran.

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