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I love this article– what does quality feel like online? Take a minute and go to your app’s website. And ask yourself, does it scream quality?

Long ago, as a linux user with Red Hat 7 I quickly developed a quick way to see if an app I was interested in trying was well-developed or not. I’d find their public website and take a look at that. My reasoning was not simply “I’m a web guy and if you’re not I won’t use your app”. I just figured that if you have time to make your website nice, your app was going great. I know, not very scientific. But look around. The ‘big-time’ apps that are winning have nice sites. Ok, nice is very subjective. But they have ‘serious’ sites. Time was spent making the site look good. If you have time to polish that, it tells me your app is also pretty polished. So I’ll at least consider using your app.

In the aforementioned article, Chris Mayfield talks about:

  1. Sticky Stories
  2. Great Typography
  3. Humanistic Experience
  4. Intuitive Interactions
  5. Empathy for Your Customer

I thought I’d touch on #2 today. Great Typography. (That means the use of font styles, sizes, and spacing around said fonts.) The article quotes Jared Christensen who says:

Nothing says quality like a Web page that treats type like a first-class citizen.

I believe that. Now you may laugh. But this isn’t Linux app development. This is customer experience. You make it look pretty. They like. Now you may not get fonts. You may not know a serif from a tilde, but it’s not that hard to learn.

If you’re an avid Microsoft hater you’ll be horrified to learn that you should design websites to target their Core Fonts for the Web: Andale Mono, Arial, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana. I will leave Webdings off that list completely. This isn’t to say all of these would be great for your site. Comic Sans MS in particular should just be blocked by browsers so that no web design is harmed by its use. The reason these are the usual suspects is because they’re on all the Windows and Macs out there. And I’m guessing a good chunk of Linux users too. Since you can count on most people having these, it’s a cinch- make use of them. They’re not stellar, but they’re ok.

The latest browsers- all of the main ones on Linux in fact- support the @font-face CSS property, which allows you to put a font on your server and have your site use that font even on somebody’s computer that doesn’t have that font. The main drawback, aside from proprietary font licensing restrictions, is that the whole font has to be downloaded from your site just like an image for it to render so it can slow things down. Another similar idea is cufón which is a cross-browser way that uses Javascript to rewrite ‘normal’ text in a font of your choice.

Below are some great resources for fonts you can use online. Aside from any political feelings you may have on using fonts that are 100% free. Some methods of embedding, like @font-face and cufón, are still kind of murky (or downright illegal) in the legal department, so make sure the fonts you use for embedding, if you do that, can legally be used in that way. Here are some notes on ‘open source’ fonts if you’re interested.

Some fonts, like Bitstream Vera and the Liberation font family, were created specifically for the open source community and are completely usable. At least right now, Liberation Sans is being used on my site here via cufón.

Go ahead- make your fonts beautiful!