The following account represents one person's unabashed love for an up and coming web font service.
As many know by now, the dawn of true web type is finally upon us. Dozens of service offerings have sprung up, pricing models have become more reasonable, and @font-face usage is becoming far more ubiquitous than it was just a year ago. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
We’re so close to the typographic possibilities that web designers have always dreamed of, but there are still some roadblocks in terms of what works best for agencies and clients. I won’t weigh the pros and cons of different services and options. That’s been done elsewhere already. I'd rather explain why I love Fontspring so much for our needs at Viget. For a more technical and pragmatic view on exploring the realities of @font-face usage see Doug's post.
I think it’s great that subscription models exist. There are many options out there right now. The idea of renting type for use on the web has good merit, but it’s not perfect. For instance, if you rent from one service but you want to use fonts from another service, you may find yourself having to pay for multiple subscriptions. I’d much rather hop around different services to find the best fonts for my needs and then pay once and be done with it. Fontspring has many good quality fonts at affordable prices. Pay once and never worry about it again.
Downloading and installing yourself means you have control over where the files are served, how they are called, and how they are optimized. This way you are not shackled into someone else's script or a large file size when you only need the uppercase characters of a font. Also, the more control you have over the optimization, the more control you’ll have over things like “Flash of Unstyled Text” aka FOUT. That’s the flickering you see when a font changes from a system font to the one being served by the host. Some browsers won’t even serve the system font until the host font is loaded to render. If you haven’t optimized correctly, there could be an annoying delay.
While WOFF appears to be the universal web font format of the future it’s still a work in progress. Fontspring offers TrueType, WOFF, EOT and SVG so you have all your bases covered.
This is a big one for us. Many services will offer access to a robust library of high-quality fonts but not allow use on the desktop. This is great if you’re doing much of the design in a text editor, but far less appealing if you use a high-end graphics program like Photoshop or Fireworks to do your design work. I don’t want to debate the merits of designing in the browser vs. not. I think there are good reasons to do either based on your variables in play. It’s just that we’re at a point at Viget where we’ve become far more specialized than we used to be and most of our projects have a considerable amount of visual story-telling that is best done with painting and illustration tools. Being able to use fonts on the desktop legally is important to us, so having legit versions for use on both web and the desktop makes sense.
Unlimited Domain Use
Having to maintain what font is used on what domains and keep track of it is a pain. I just want to have the comfort of knowing I legally own the rights to use fonts on any project that I work on.
This one makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Fontspring charges you once for unlimited pageviews. Other services want you to calculate expected pageviews on an annual basis. This is hard to do accurately and opens the door for ambiguity or even straight-up lying. Furthermore, while the pageview model can be reasonably priced at smaller levels, it can get super expensive trying to secure unlimited usage. A recent test resulted in upwards of $1K for a single weight of a font. Gah!
So What Are The Downsides?
Can nothing be perfect in this world? While I love Fontspring the biggest downside is the selection. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good options but the selection is still not as wide as I’d like it to be. Many of the fonts I’d like to use are only available via subscription models or without available web licenses. My hope is that some day soon there will be more options like Fontspring where I can find good quality, reasonably-priced fonts with suitable licenses for agency use without a subscription. At the moment, I worry that there aren’t enough competitors thinking in this way.
As I mentioned, FontSpring does have some excellent options. Here are a few of my favorites:
Maybe I WILL marry Fontspring.