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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 talk about how to fix characters that don't look right. You need the files biblio_sans_ characters.html and biblio_sans_characters.css from the Exercise folder. Open up the HTML file in your browser to see what we're working with. And I would point out a mistake I made at the start of this project. When I guided you on how to pick a font for this project I didn't consider all of the important characters. I didn't look at the quotation marks. I waited until the very end to switch the quotation marks to the true curly marks, which it don't usually do in real life.
I usually switch them over near the beginning because the double prime marks tend to bug me. But for this course I waited until the end. The very end seems to like a really good time to introduce the details of punctuation. And guess what? I don't care for these quotation marks. They are too small and dark on the page. They don't work with the flow and texture of the font the way Georgia's quotation marks do. They sort of pop out from the text saying, "Hey, look at me, I am a quotation mark." Let me show you the difference here.
This quotation mark before the word the feels a little heavy to me. It feels like it's actually stronger than the letter T. If I take a look at the one in Georgia I can see that the T is a little bit stronger than a quotation mark. The quotation mark recedes a little and that's what I would expect from a quotation mark. And I know this is subtle but it sort of bugs me. Let's go back to here and maybe you can see the difference. Now don't get me wrong. I still love PT Sans. It's a beautiful font with the beautiful italic and I would use it again. In fact it's one of my favorite font.
But I wouldn't have chosen it for this project if I had seen earlier what its quotation marks looked like. So what do I do now? Well it depends on the project. If I were building a large web site with lots of text, I would go back and find another font. I would look for something similar to PT Sans, but with a quotation mark that meets my expectations. There were a couple we looked at back at the beginning that looked like they could have done the job. I will put one of them and see how it works. Though this might mean making changes to the overall design.
Here I've replaced PT Sans with Ubuntu, which is another font I like, but I didn't choose it early on because it's a little funky, although I have to say I do like its quotation marks. You can see that Ubuntu is very different from PT Sans. The bold looks much bolder. I don't know if I would still use it for the H2 and so I'd have to reconsider that decision and the font overall looks bigger even when set at the same size. See how the main heading breaks and how the top line of navigation is now breaking out a bit from its navigation space? This is all because Ubuntu takes up more room than PT Sans.
And I'm no longer sure about the decision to use the Droid Serif. While it's a contemporary serif font, it still suggests a hint of traditional texture and that seems really out of place when paired with Ubuntu, but I know I could make it work. It would just take some redesign decisions, most of which would mean minor changes in the CSS. It could be done and I would do it, after of course I made sure this time I had the perfect sans serif font replace PT Sans.
But what if I have only got a couple of quotation marks in my design and I don't want to change my font? What if I love my font and it's perfect in every other way? Well we can replace the quotation marks with good ones. That is I could create a class with a different font and span all the quotation marks in the HTML. This can be a pain but it is allowable and it is doable and it gets rid of the quotation marks that aren't working for me. And this could work for other characters as well. If you're working with the site where you use an ampersand or another character and you want to swap it for one in a different font, you can do this.
So let's do it now. In the CSS file we are going to create a class. I am going to put it down with P tag, because we will be using it within the text and I am going to call it quotemarks. I'm going to give this class the font family Verdana because Verdana is a web safe font and it's standard and I know it has decent quotemarks. I'm also going to build a font stack. I don't want to get myself in trouble here. Do Arial and san-serif.
I am also going to give it a font-size of .9em. I'm doing this because when I tested the Verdana with the PT Sans, PT Sans felt a little bit smaller and the Verdana felt a little bit bigger. So by doing this, when another font comes the quotation marks would be a little bit smaller than the text, but they will look like they belong. And it's most important that they look like they belong. I am going to make sure I close that curly bracket there and then in the HTML I am going to span the quotemarks.
Got my class. span class=quotemarks. I am going to select that and copy it so I can use it again. I need to end the span, /span, and then here is my apostrophe that I will need to change and let's see. We will change this one. We are just going to change a couple, so that you can see the difference. Just going to do it once and then stop.
In fact I am going to stop here, not even do all of them. There is a lot in there. Let's save this and we can review it in our browser and this will allow us to see the difference between them. This is the way I would expect a quote mark to look.
It's got a good angle to it. It doesn't feel like it's standing out to much and if you look at this one here up by The Typographers Bible'and then down here if you look at the one that's with the word start, you can see the differences. This one, it feels wimpy like a little block or something. So again, it's really subtle but it was bugging me and part of being a typographer is paying attention to the details. So there is definitely a drawback to this method ,as you probably noticed. If you have a large site with a lot of quotation marks to fix, it will take you a lot of time and patience, although theoretically you could do it at the same time that you're putting in the character entities.
Also if you have a simple site, perhaps with only one quote on the page, while replacing the quotation mark font could work for you and you'd still get to use your font that's perfect in every way, qhether I choose to replace all the quotation marks or I choose to pick a different font and modify my design, the point is I wouldn't leave it this way. There are just too many beautiful fonts out there that can handle everything I need for this project. It's just a matter of finding the right one. I'm not thrilled about ending this project by focusing on a problem.
I considered going back and redoing all the lessons starting with another font so you would never see that I ran into this problem. But then I thought it might be helpful for you to see firsthand that even really experienced, thoughtful, good typographers run into problems like this. And it can be really tempting to just let problems like these go. But the right thing to do is to go back and fix what needs to be fixed. That's what makes a good typographer. Not avoiding all mistakes but fixing the ones that pop-up.
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