Technology Review: Web Fonts

Monotype Imaging, a well-known name in the graphics business, introduced the Web Fonts service from its site in September. Similar in many ways to Typekit, its biggest selling point is its extensive font library. Depending on which plan you choose, you’ll have access to 3,000 or 8,000 fonts. This video tutorial provides an overview of how it works.

The site is reasonably easy to navigate. Pull-down menus let you search for fonts based on classification (Calligraphy, Handwriting, Slab Serif, San Serif, etc.), designer, foundry and language support. You can also search via keywords or execute alpha searches. However, you can’t filter the list based on multiple criteria, such as sans serif faces beginning with N or serif faces from a certain foundry or designer. Given the size of the font library, this is a bigger problem with this service than it would be with others. A more granular set of tags for these fonts would also be useful.

But my biggest complaint is the slow performance of the website, which lags noticeably each time you change search criteria or choose any other option. As it chugs away, you’ll keep staring at the line about the quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dog and wishing that the website were that fast.

Once you’ve chosen a font, you can select one of four ways to add it to your site. The “Easy” and “Advanced” JavaScript options are similar to what you do in Typekit, providing a snippet of JavaScript code and optional CSS rules that you paste into your web design. But you can also choose from two non-JavaScript options that generate a simpler “link” code. This code provides a direct link to the fonts on the vendor’s server. You may need to use one of the non-JavaScript options if you want to preview your work in Dreamweaver CS5.

Web Fonts has two subscription tiers with pricing based on total page views per month. These are costlier than Typekit’s subscription plans, but provide access to a broader selection of fonts. The “Standard” tier ranges from $10 per month (250,000 page views) to $80 per month (2 million page views), whereas the “Professional” tier ranges from $100 per month (2.5 million page views) to $500 per month (12.5 million page views).

Both plans provide access to the full 8,000-font library, with no limit on the number of websites or number of fonts per site. The Professional tier also offers the option of downloading fonts for use in design mock-ups.
Monotype also offers a freebie version similar to Typekit’s, though it’s more generous. You can use an unlimited number of fonts from a library of more than 3000, and deploy them on any number of websites as long as the monthly page views don’t exceed 25,000. You’re also limited to using the JavaScript options for linking to fonts. As with Typekit, the free version places a badge on your site, but it’s waived until Jan. 1 2011. Web Fonts from Monotype offers the largest choice of typefaces, but the search interface suffers from slow performance. The quick brown fox will likely run a few laps around the lazy dog before you’ve made all your font selections.




* The Web Designer’s Idea Book Volume 2
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