Why I’m using Typekit

January 28th, 2013 by Gage Pacifera

So I have recently started using Typekit on my web projects, basically for two reasons:

  • to ensure that the fonts I’m using render nicely
  • to ensure that the fonts I’m using on sites are legal

Typekit has been around a while as a subscription-based online font library. I’ve been hesitant to get on board for a few reasons. For one, I try to avoid loading any more external services than is necessary. Things like stat tracking, social media buttons, video services (i.e. youtube), anything that loads content or scripts from an external site is going to slow down your own site’s load time resulting in a less-than-optimal user experience. For two, I didn’t see it as being necessary. With web font conversion services like those offered at Font Squirrel that automatically transform your normal fonts to a serviceable web fonts, why would you need to subscribe to an external service? Also, I wondered how this external service would do in my local development environment. Sure, those fonts might load just fine on www.mycompany.com, but how about on my local network? And lastly, as a subscription service, it costs money, and why pay for something I can already do for free?

Well, it turns out that my worries were overblown. When implementing Typekit on my pages, the embed scripts and the fonts load remarkably fast.. I really didn’t notice any kind of slowdown. Working in my dev environments is fine. As long as my internet connection is up and after specifying my local web address in the typekit settings, everything works great. And the pricing for typekit is very reasonable: $50/year gets me use of all their fonts on all of my sites.

As for the free font-conversion services, that isn’t always a viable route. The fonts must be in specific formats for those conversions to work. So if you happen to get a TTF or OTF file from the designer, you’re probably in the good (unless that font has been blacklisted by the service.. more on that below). But if you get an older mac font file, no go. And I’ve had problems with other formats as well.

Now back to those two points I mentioned above.

One huge advantage of using Typekit is that I don’t have to worry about if a particular font that my designer is using is going to look good on the web. If it’s in the Typekit library, it will. And even better, I can probably make use of gradated font weights to give more options for font thickness.. so instead of only having font-weight: bold or font-weight: normal to choose from, I can actually choose something like font-weight: 500 to arrive at a weight somewhere in-between. I’ve had several experiences where the font that a designer picks out looks great in Photoshop, but then when I take that same font, convert it to a web font and stick it in the page, it looks terrible. And on smaller mobile devices, sometimes a font that is rendered a little too thin by the converter becomes totally unreadable.

My concerns about the legality of using certain fonts came to the forefront a few projects ago when I tried to convert a font with Font Squirrel and I got a message back saying that that font wasn’t allowed to be converted due to copyright/licensing restrictions. So naturally, I just found another sketchier service to use that had less qualms about the legality of the fonts I was uploading and I was good to go.

Clearly, this conscious disregard of the restrictions put in place by the creators of these fonts is not an ideal way to operate. I’ve heard/read very little about appropriate ways to use fonts on the web, but that little warning on Font Squirrel seems to indicate that with at least some of the fonts that I’m using, I’m probably not doing so entirely legally. I’ve looked for good articles on the web around font legality and talked to colleagues about it, and from my (admittedly limited) research, I don’t think that most web designers or developers know what the rules are around using fonts.

Fortunately, using Typekit bypasses the issue. When using Typekit fonts I don’t have to be an expert in font legality issues, I’ll just trust that Typekit has me covered.. or at least, they’ll be the ones assuming liability if a font author gets upset and decides to take up the issue in a court of law.

Posted in Web Development

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