Technology Review: WebInk

WebInk is a new web font service from Extensis, a company best known for its graphics utilities. One of those utilities is Suitcase Fusion, the popular font-management software, and WebInk’s biggest selling point is its integration with the latest version of this program. You don’t have to be a Suitcase user to take advantage of WebInk, but you’ll be missing out on some cool features.

The first step in using WebInk is creating Type Drawers where you store the fonts for each set of projects. For example, you might set up one drawer for a small-business client whose site gets 20,000 monthly visitors, and another for a bigger site with 100,000 visitors.

You can manage your Type Drawers from the WebInk site or from within Suitcase. If you work inside Suitcase, a new Web Preview function lets you see how fonts would appear on any website—your own or someone else’s. Want to see The New York Times in Bodoni Old Fashioned Bold Italic? Give it a try. You can test the font on the entire site, or specific blocks of type. The feature works with fonts stored on your own system in addition to any WebInk font.

Another cool feature is QuickMatch, which lets you select any font and search for typefaces with similar designs. This could be useful if you have a font on your system and want to find similar WebInk fonts to add to a Type Drawer.

Once you’ve chosen the fonts for a project, you can use either Suitcase or the WebInk site to generate CSS rules for your web designs. Web pages encoded with WebInk fonts can be previewed in Dreamweaver CS5’s Live View mode.

You can search for WebInk fonts from Suitcase or the website. However, the site isn’t well organized. You might think you can go straight to the Explore Fonts section to add fonts to a Type Drawer, but instead you have to go to a section labeled My Type Drawers, open a Type Drawer and click on “Add Fonts.”

WebInk has the most complicated pricing structure of the services I looked at: four tiers based on site traffic and another four based on which font collection you want to use, for a total of 16 options. Most designers can probably narrow this down to four: The Pro tier (small business websites) with either the Standard ($19.99/month) or Premium ($29.99/month) font collection, or the Business tier (large businesses or e-commerce sites), again with the Standard ($39.99/month) or Premium ($59.99/month) collection. The Standard and Premium collections provide access to 2,031 and 2,097 font faces respectively. The other font collections, Budget and Promotional, are limited to 46 and 13 faces, respectively.

Pricing is further complicated because Extensis figures site traffic based on font downloads rather than page views. It’s so complicated that the company provides an online calculator to estimate the font bandwidth. One example: 100,000 monthly visitors X 2 font faces X a full character set = 15GB, or the Business plan. Change font subsetting to English only, and download volume drops to 5GB, or the Pro plan. Custom enterprise pricing is also available.

Each Type Drawer is priced separately, so you can assign the drawers to different clients based on their site traffic. Each drawer accommodates up to four websites. Extensis offers a free 30-day trial for WebInk, and a separate 30-day trial for Suitcase Fusion.

You can manage Type Drawers from Suitcase Fusion 3 or the WebInk site. The site offers more-extensive search options, but the navigation is a bit confusing.

The web preview in Suitcase Fusion 3 lets you test WebInk fonts on any web page.

On second thought, maybe Bodoni Bold Italic isn’t such a good idea here.



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