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Font wars

Georgia on my mind

Design interlude: this is a test post formatted in a serif font, unlike the sans-serif fonts used for previous posts. In order to create a seductive yet temporary oasis of aesthetic democracy in my otherwise dictatorial fiefdom, I open the question of which font should use for new posts to you, the readers.

Do the serifs make it easier to read and even lend it a patina of rationality — as though you were reading something printed, and therefore indubitably true? Or do you like the no-nonsense old-skool screen font of yore? Listen to your eyes: the decision is yours!

Update: the old font wins, 66-55!

  1. 1  Tom  February 23, 2007, 10:16 am 

    I think the serifs help to make the content of the post stand out amongst the san-serif font used around it for titles, navigation etc. making it easier to read.

  2. 2  Graham Giblin  February 23, 2007, 11:15 am 

    I don’t know about anyone else’s experience but the Andreas theme, which I use myself (shameless steal from Steven), seems on IE to push anything wider than maybe 61 characters down past the last item on either left or right columns. Not on Firefox though. I find that more distressing than Georgia. But only just.

  3. 3  Steven  February 23, 2007, 1:14 pm 

    Hmmm, the voting is excitingly close so far. Does that happen with IE on this site, Graham?

  4. 4  Aenea  February 23, 2007, 1:51 pm 

    OLD ONE!!

  5. 5  Graham Giblin  February 23, 2007, 2:05 pm 

    Oddly enough, the Firefox IE show identical stats – with my preference creeping up after a shaky start. I’ll email about the IE thing.

  6. 6  Richard  February 23, 2007, 2:49 pm 

    me like serif for block text. Me find more easier on eyes/brain.

  7. 7  Dale  February 23, 2007, 7:24 pm 

    The votes are 35/35 as I write this.

    I like the new Georgia font, but it isn’t rendering correctly in Newsgator, where I normally read your posts… so I’ll have to vote against it. Sorry … or not, depending on which choice you favored.

    I don’t know the technical reason why some fonts render badly in the readers, but you might want to experiment with the appearance of your posts in Newsgator or Bloglines before you choose a new font. It may be just the size you chose that caused a problem, and modifying it just slightly might make a difference.

    Off to vote now….

  8. 8  Tess  February 23, 2007, 8:37 pm 

    Sans please!

    Avec serif is very non-U.

  9. 9  bastion  February 24, 2007, 12:15 am 

    Ooh! Close vote.

    Old one stands out better. Put it back!

  10. 10  sw  February 24, 2007, 12:19 am 

    Is one allowed to vote more than once?

  11. 11  Steven  February 24, 2007, 2:12 am 

    Dale: Newsgator renders it as a big sans font, probably because the font-size info is encoded in this post, when it won’t be if and when I change the stylesheet.

    sw: that is a very delicate question. The proper answer, of course, is “No”.

    I’ll leave the poll open over the weekend. It looks like whatever I do, I’ll piss off about half my readers. You see, democracy is rubbish.

  12. 12  sw  February 24, 2007, 5:43 am 

    “Half my readers”? This is a poll. You’ll only piss off half my readers who bother to vote in polls. Please be more precise when considering the results of polls in the future.

  13. 13  Mike Conley  February 24, 2007, 10:10 am 

    Out with the old, in with the new! ¡Viva la Revolución!

  14. 14  Graham Giblin  February 24, 2007, 10:42 am 

    I only like democracy when my side wins. Go the sans!

  15. 15  Steven  February 24, 2007, 2:12 pm 

    SW: you are of course right, though any of my readers who don’t bother to vote in polls will hardly be able to complain when I switch the entire site to Comic Sans.

  16. 16  Andy A  February 24, 2007, 7:42 pm 

    Sans is crisper, and OK for short reads, although serif is supposed to be easier on the eye (and therefore presumably better for longer reads) because the serifs themselves urge the eye on in some way. I’ve never really worked out whether that’s true or just bullshit, but maybe some readers perceive things differently. Some sans fonts are better than others, of course, and I rather like Trebuchet and Verdana (which look very alike, on my screen, anyway).

  17. 17  dave  February 25, 2007, 12:23 am 


    any of my readers who don’t bother to vote in polls will hardly be able to complain when I switch the entire site to Comic Sans.

    Not very true. Did you mean ‘hardly be justified in complaining’? (Of course, you could always block comments along with the font switch!)

  18. 18  Steven  February 25, 2007, 1:06 am 

    I will certainly block comments like that.

  19. 19  Graham Giblin  February 25, 2007, 1:52 am 

    If you switch the whole site to comic sans you will have solved the problem. No readers, no comments to block….

  20. 20  Alex Higgins  February 25, 2007, 2:43 pm 

    “…my readers who don’t bother to vote in polls will hardly be able to complain when I switch the entire site to Comic Sans.”

    Comic Sans was an option? I want that one!

    By not including Comic Sans on the ballot, you are deliberately disenfranchising silly people.

  21. 21  Richard  February 26, 2007, 2:51 pm 

    OK – now I’ve thought this through, and I say go with sans: it connotes high modernist hyperbole, and with it the limits of rational discourse. Those comfy serifs with their tidy rationality are themselves a form of unspeak.

  22. 22  Steven  February 26, 2007, 5:42 pm 

    This site stands for nothing if not high-modernist hyperbole and the limits of rational discourse.

    Well, it was a close-run thing, but sans wins. Thanks for voting!

  23. 23  Daniel F  February 26, 2007, 11:16 pm 

    IAAL. Today my opponent served on me a skeleton argument, submitting that an indictment alleging rape should be stayed as an abuse of the process of the court (on account of delay and various other reasons). He really had drafted this document in comic sans.

  24. 24  Steven  February 26, 2007, 11:19 pm 

    Surely he can be disbarred for such an intemperate use of “crazy” fontstyles? If not, I don’t know what the world’s coming to. Perhaps Tony Blair can draw up some new legislation to address this looming menace?

  25. 25  Gwynn Dujardin  February 27, 2007, 12:03 am 

    Garsh, I leave town for a couple of days and miss all the serif fun.

    Steven will know I’ve got a thing for letters, as I tormented him with my reading of the transversed E in his title and emblem. . .

    I’m glad you’re sticking with the non-serif.

    Nice work, folks!

  26. 26  sw  February 27, 2007, 3:41 am 

    I voted so many times for each option that I can’t even remember which one I wanted to win.

  27. 27  dsquared  February 27, 2007, 10:44 am 

    the old font appears to have won the war but lost the peace; as of 0945 GMT, the entire front page of the blog is in serif.

  28. 28  Graham Giblin  February 27, 2007, 12:25 pm 

    I see it all now – the fiendish plot.
    Steven has offered us a metaphor for war. He has even called it “Font Wars“.
    He has preemptively, and unbidden, foisted the sweet fruits of democracy upon a people whose fontish prejudices have until now been safely controlled. He has provoked perhaps the one thing that divided his readers. In the process he has inflamed discontent and unleashed serifarian hostility.
    With the genie now released, how can Steven ever hope to restore civility?
    No matter who had won, half of his readers must always harbour resentment against those who voted successfully. Can there be an exit strategy?
    How can Steven now hope to reconcile the factions, prevent all-out civil war and avoid chaos?

  29. 29  Steven  February 27, 2007, 12:40 pm 

    Thanks dsquared – fixed! (Or broken, depending on which side of the Wars you were on.)

    Graham’s metaphorical reading is perfect. I’m going to have a surge now.

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