Of all the web-compatible typefaces available, the least appealing is the Verdana font.
And yes, I know it’s used all over. Believe me, I notice!
We’ve spoken about choosing typefaces and brand fonts a lot around here.
Let’s talk a little about the history of Verdana first. It was released in 1996, so it’s a modern typeface. It was designed with one purpose in mind: to improve readability in text used very small on a computer screen.
Microsoft included Verdana as part of its Windows operating system, and so did Mac. 99% of Windows machines and 96% of Macs have it, so it’s widely compatible.
When typeface designers set out to make a typeface that will be readable at small sizes, they streamline the letters to remove flourishes that would get lost at a small size.
They also give the letters a large “x-height,” which is the vertical space between the baseline the letters sit on, and the top of lower-case letters like e, x, a, etc. And they tend to add extra space between letters, because when typefaces are reduced very small, letters will blur together unless they’re spaced out quite a bit.
Let me show you why I hate Verdana for regular text copy, and what it’s good for.
Verdana vs. Helvetica
Here’s the same text used very small. Now which typeface is more readable?
Verdana was designed by Matthew Carter, who also designed the Georgia typeface. Georgia is another screen-compatible typeface that also looks good in print, and is one of the standard typefaces pre-installed on Windows and Mac computers.
Retailer IKEA switched their print catalog and signage to Verdana a few years ago, and caused an uproar that included petitions to remove it, and articles in the Associated Press, Time and Newsweek. You can read more about it here.
My recommendation for using Verdana
If you need to run a small disclaimer or some “legalese” on your site, Verdana’s a good choice.
Avoid using Verdana for the main text areas of your site, and certainly do not use it for print work.
It was designed to be used on screen, not in print, where it decreases readability and slows your readers down.
For more on fonts, including how to choose, use and combine them, read What Font Should You Use to Brand Your Business?
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