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Johann Sparkling 96pt
Web Typography
graphic text

Should you preserve your creative vision at the expense of your visitors?

There are two main methods for showing type in Web pages, and each comes with its own set of benefits and problems. Formatted HTML text makes up the vast bulk of Web text, but graphic images of type are also important. These two forms are roughly analogous to the more traditional distinctions between body and display type.

When faced with the problem of trying to precisely recreate some typesetting the best solution is often to simply turn the work into static bitmap graphics, commonly called GIF text images. This allows text to be shown on everyone’s screen exactly as the designer intended.

Of course there are some serious drawbacks to this technique; GIF text graphics are totally inflexible so, unlike real text, the content won’t automatically flow to fit windows or around images. They also look pretty poor when printed, as they are just low-resolution images rather than real text. And if anyone needs to copy the text - perhaps it is important contact details - they can’t. And of course the site can’t be indexed by search engines without adding META tags - which are ignored by some search engines anyway! (See Be Found for details on desiging findable web sites.)

However, one of the biggest problems with using graphics for type in the relative size of the files. In Web design size really does matter; download speed is everything. Web surfers are generally a very fickle lot - if a site’s pages take too long to arrive, they’ll probably just up and leave for another site. And don’t assume this means they are cheapskates using out of date modems; if a site is particularly busy, or is simply stored on the same server or connection as a popular site, the access times for the simplest of pages can become alarmingly slow for everyone.