We have gone a long way since Gutenberg’s printing press and the first form of mass production for books. However, the challenges are the same when it comes to typography. While in the old days it was hard to craft typeface in metal and then set it on the printing press, today we have to consider issues such as size, color, weight, style etc.

Choosing the right font for your web or mobile app is a very important and sensitive decision. It influences how your future users will perceive the app, and whether they will choose to keep it or uninstall it. To make a valid parallel, we are judging people by the way they dress and we even strive to impose a certain view by the choice of clothes and hairstyles. This is exactly what fonts represent for an app: a visual first impression which the user will make and which will remain unchanged.

There are many technical issues to discuss surrounding fonts, but your designer will certainly cover them when planning the overall look of your app. This article will focus on the role of fonts as key factors in the user’s first impression, on usability and branding.

These are some of the aspects which you should keep in mind when deciding what typeface and font style you will choose for your app in the design phase:

1. Create a Unique Experience on All Platforms

Web or mobile apps should integrate in terms of image with your website and other digital properties. This is what corporate identity and branding stand for: a unique, easy-to-recognize image which strengthens customer loyalty.

Fonts must ideally look the same on a large 24” computer monitor and on a 4” mobile screen. If your website was developed before the advent of mobile internet and mobile apps, it is time for a rebrand – and this should include a new typeface with font styles which are tested to look great in all sizes and on all devices.

2. Is Your Font Truly Versatile?

Once you have selected a specific typeface, it should be used in any font style without reducing readability or losing its appealing look. This means:

  • Different colors
  • Bold, italic, underline
  • Pairing with graphic elements
  • Placing on the logo
  • Different textures (solid, outline)

A company should ideally use the same typeface in its app design, as well as in any other online or offline materials that represent its brand. Certainly, no one should tell you how creative you can get while creating a mobile app and deciding on the typeface and font style. But, will it stand the test of readability once it is artistically processed by your designer?

3. What Does Your Font Say about Your Business?

Just as different colors influence people in their opinion of a certain brand or product, fonts do the same thing. A script font, which imitates handwriting, is not a good choice for a financial or advanced technology company. Solid, bold types will not appeal to potential customers for a ladies’ fashion app.

The ideal solution for any company is to design its own proprietary font, which incorporates the brand image and the best practices when it comes to user experience and flexibility on various devices. However, this poses certain problems: the new font may not be fully compatible with website building platforms, with certain software used for creating brochures, and other types of printed marketing materials. In order to design a perfectly compatible font with all the above, it takes time and money, and many companies can not afford either of them.

4. Consider the App Loading Speed

Fonts are elements of the app which need to be loaded, just like photos, animations and sounds. The more complex and the larger the number elements to be loaded, the more it will take for your app to load. We have already covered the issue of loading speed in other articles: your users will not have the patience to wait for more than 2-3 seconds. If they perceive the app as sluggish in launching and using, they will uninstall it.

For that matter, you should not opt for more than two fonts for any app – web or mobile. In truth, even websites do not need more. The key to a great-looking and readable app is finding the exact pair of fonts which complement or contrast each other in the precise manner necessary for them to give character to your app.

5. Consider Licensing Issues

If your organization does not develop its own font, it will necessarily obtain it from a third party. When it comes to purchasing fonts, it is important to know exactly how much freedom you have in using the font on an app which will be available for download in an app store – even if it is a free app. If you do not have the permission to incorporate the font in any digital product for commercial purposes, explore every option from obtaining those rights to choosing another font.

Launching an app containing a licensed font without holding all the relevant rights will prove a costly mistake quite soon – because copyright holders are actively searching for unauthorized use and enforcing their legal rights.

Last, but not least, be thorough in testing your fonts before you launch the app. Issues such as kerning (distance between letters) and x-height (the height of lowercase letters) can lead to poor readability and embarrassing misinterpretation of certain words.