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Learn how to choose fonts for a web site and create beautiful, legible type. Author Laura Franz shares how to create designs that maximize readability (and keep visitors on the page) by paying attention to details in size, line-height, line length, alignment, color, vertical space, and more. Laura also demonstrates how to incorporate web fonts, style type with CSS, and pick fonts that work well together.
In this lesson we're going to decide where to place our links on our modern bibliography and decide how they should look. We're going to want to keep a modernist look to the page so we'll try and honor the architectural space in the page. We'll also try to create a vertical line and a focal point. We'll start by picking a font. Here are the fonts we are already using in the layout. Let's eliminate the ones I don't think are the best choices. Well, Droid Serif has a generous x- height and a slightly square structure, so it's not as traditional looking as other serif fonts, it's not as clean and simple on the page as PT Sans.
It's not our best option. We could use PT Sans Italic but it's too humanist, too soft. PT Sans Bold is too heavy and will be hard to quickly skim when small. It could also start to draw attention away from h3s, our resource titles. PT SANS CAPS doesn't match anything else we're doing on the page, plus it starts to feel a bit traditional. Our best choice is PT Sans regular. Let's plan to use it at the same size as the text.
We might be able to go one pixel smaller or larger if needed since it's simple links, not paragraphs of text, but we'll start at the same size. Color and placement will help the links stand out. When placing a list of links we've got a couple of options. At the top, to the left and to the right. If we put them to the left, they conflict with the current two-column grid. They draw attention away from the H2, which is our section header, and also from the strong vertical line.
It's hard to find a good placement for the links if they are on the left. If we make them farther away, the H2 and vertical lines regain emphasis. But now the list of links feels like it's floating and the page feels empty. Placing the links on the right is a little better, especially if we lower them so the first set of headings pops up above the horizon. I also really enjoy how the space becomes more architectural and breaks out at the text frame. But it's hard for me to see the list of links as links.
They feel like a caption at first glance. I know color will help, but let's consider our last link placement option before settling on this one. If we line the links up along the top, this could work. The two-column page layout can handle the long line of links, plus PT Sans has a slightly narrower bold so the links fit comfortably on one line. I am not crazy about how they float near the top of the page but they need a lot of space to separate them from the title.
If they get too close to the title, the title starts to feel boxed in. It loses some of its emphasis. One thing we could try is to add a color bar behind the links. This visually separates them from the title and references the horizontal rule lines used elsewhere on the page. But I don't like the double band of color here so I'd move them up to the edge of the page. One last thing we could try is to stack the links as a list above the title. This further emphasizes both the vertical line and the design and the architectural space in the page layout.
This is a really nice solution actually. I have two issues with it though. One, the navigation takes up more space and we have less room for immediate content. I could try tightening them up, which helps with space, but my second issue is that the links detract from the focal point of the main heading and the secondary focal point of the section heading. This could be a good solution and if a colleague went in this direction I would not say they had made a bad decision. In fact, I'd respect their decision to put more emphasis on structuring the architectural page.
But I am going to take you in the other direction, the one with horizontal lists of links. It's a little more stable. We can move the content down a bit and it really helps the main heading to stand out. So let's put them along at the top. Now that we've figured out font and placement we need to figure out color. This gray certainly won't work. I've already got a photo in mind for our background. We can pick a color from the photo for the links. We'll put the color into the bar and make the text the light yellow color.
This color is just a little too pink. The orange doesn't work with the blue and yellow. It's too bright and the green is analogous. This means that the yellow, green, and blue are all near each other on the color wheel so it just feels sort of flat. I could pull a red from the book shadow in the image, but now the page feels a little too colorful to me with all the primary colors, red, blue and yellow, in use and black won't work. Honestly, I really like the yellow and blue we've worked so hard to establish earlier.
It's a good palette, but if we make the links blue they blend in with the text. So let's make our text black and the links blue for now, keeping with the current color palette. Next for the hover, which is the change to the link when someone rolls over it. Let's change the background color to darker blue. The subtle shift in color will let our readers know they've interacted with an active link. We could go with one of the other colors but it gets a little too colorful. We could try making it the same color as the page so it feels like a tab.
I usually love this, but since the navigation links on this page go to anchors on the same page, while the tab look feels a little inappropriate here, it will look like links would take us to a different page and they won't. So I think we'll go with the darker blue. That way it's different from the lighter blue but it doesn't bring anything new in. We also need to think about how the links will look when they've been activated or clicked on. Let's keep it simple and just slightly darken the text. It will be noticeable but not jarring.
Finally we need to think about what the links should look like after they've been visited. Let's just keep them the same as the unvisited links. This is a very simple web site, a single page. It's not absolutely necessary to indicate where on the page the reader has already visited. So we've decided how the links should look, where they should live on the page, and how they should change as the reader interacts with them. We've created a strong vertical line and by keeping the links in a single row with the background color we've kept the integrity of our two-column layout and kept the H1 our main focal point.
So we are ready to move on to start styling the links.
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