Web Font Usage - How much is too much?

rickyferrer's picture

I have been butting heads with my lead developer lately about how much and how often we should use our brand-approved web fonts. These fonts are Benton Modern and Benton Sans. I would like to maybe even use these fonts for all type on the site instead of trying to pair them with Arial and Georgia. My developer is pushing back because of load time. He'll say "that's a lot of text for a web font"—wanting to only reserve the web font for special instances.

I was under the impression, that once you load a webfont, it's loaded. It wouldn't matter how much you use it within the page. That it would load as fast if you use it for one word, or 1,000 words. We do have a very large site, which is editorial-based with lots of content and I certainly wouldn't want to slow the site down.

What is everyone's experience with using web fonts? Use them pervasively or sparingly?

Frank U. Finkelstein's picture

Your developer is an idiot, and probably a Cowboys fan too.

— F. U. Finkelstein

Karl Stange's picture

There are load time issues for very large CJK fonts or any font files containing a large character set but I would assume that once it has loaded you should be good to go regardless of how much text is being rendered.

jonathanhughes's picture

I agree with Mr. Finkelstein. And it would only take about 60 seconds to set up two pages (one with the web font and one without) to be able to run some load time tests, so have the developer do that so you can prove him wrong.

Typography.Guru's picture

You do use the webfont versions, which are optimized for loading speed and screen use, don't you?

What is everyone's experience with using web fonts? Use them pervasively or sparingly?

There is no black or white answer. You need to test different sizes and browsers and see how the webfont performs, especially in copy text. If you texts become less legible than when set in Arial or Georgia, you might not want to use them in certain sizes.

PaleyD's picture

At Webtype, we optimize the rendering of our fonts for both legibility and loading time and we also offer the ability to subset by character set to improve performance further. Many of our customers use Webtype for their entire sites and haven't noticed any performance issues. For example, check out Loewe, which uses 5 variations of Benton Sans.

Also, we offer several versions of Benton Sans and Benton Modern specifically designed from the ground up to be used at small sizes--Benton Sans RE and Benton Modern RE--from the Reading Edge series. Many customers pairs these with the display-sized versions of Benton Sans/Modern on their sites.

Finally, we offer a free, 30-day trial for any font from our catalog--you can try them yourself and see if you notice any performance issues. If you have any specific questions, feel free to reach out to me directly: paley@webtype.com

Thomas Phinney's picture

Yes. If you are using the font in one place on a page, using it everywhere on the page will engender zero additional load time. I don't know the details of Webtype's back end, but if it's like ours at WebINK, if they encounter the font anywhere on the site, it is loaded once and remains cached. In our case, for up to a month.

So no, performance is almost certainly not a reason to not use your web fonts more widely. It will help you avoid the dog's breakfast problem you have now where you are using four different typefaces. Ick.

oldnick's picture

if it's like ours at WebINK, if they encounter the font anywhere on the site, it is loaded once and remains cached

Cached and available to any other application, or only via HTML?

Typography.Guru's picture

Like any other web content, cached for the specific browser used to access the site.

oldnick's picture

Thanks for the info, Ralf. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know you don’t know it…

Chris Dean's picture

Is that the same as double double double double reverse psychology?

oldnick's picture


Naaah: more like “man in a coonskin hat and pigpen wants eleven dollar bills, but you only got ten”…

or, the deliciously palindromic version…

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