There’s no question that your reading experience with an online article or website will vary greatly from one page to another. There’s a lot that goes into the design or experience that takes place with any website, and while typography is one of those things that all too often gets overlooked it actually makes a huge difference when it comes to the overall readability experience with a website.
Despite there being literally hundreds of different typefaces and variations available out there, there’s a reason that certain ones like Times New Roman, Sans Serif, Helvitica, Arial, and Courier are ones that virtually everyone knows while there are dozens upon dozens that no one knows about and most people have never even heard of.
One major issue is the spacing between letters. One reason that Times New Roman is so often seen as the perfect default is because they have exceptional spacing between letters. You won’t find an “m” or “w” touching another letter right beside it. Even multiple wide letters like “o,” “m,” and “a” can all be placed together without worry about them blurring or appearing unclear.
Aside from spacing between letters and words on the same line, having this stability from line to line also makes a huge difference when it comes to reading a web page from top to bottom and making sure there isn’t any confusion between letters. It’s a small consideration that makes enormous differences.
Some fonts simply try to be too fancy or showy. Clean graphics might look as unique or showy as other ones, but from top to bottom they are generally the better choice. If a letter isn’t extremely clean in its composition, then how are readers supposed to enjoy the reading experience?
Unclear graphics mean a reader has to stop and re-read, try to figure out what is being said. A good page has flow and having to stop, review, stop, review, stop again means a jerky motion when reading the page and that is not going to be good for the reader and it is not going to leave behind the feelings of a good experience at all.
Habit & Standards
Finally, some typefaces keep their lofty position because they started out as one of the best fonts and widespread standards have kept them there. Everyone knows Times New Roman, so why change if it still works? Sometimes the answer comes with inertia.