Web fonts: user survey results

Here are some initial results for my survey of Web designers/developers and their opinions on issues that relate to prospective technologies for Web fonts, as discussed in my last post.

I caution that this is by no means a random sample. Instead it’s the result of my posting pleas for feedback on various forums, ranging from Typophile to Adobe’s User-to-User Forums for Dreamweaver. But I’d suggest it’s still a lot better than nothing.

The results shown below are based on the first 165 responses. I may update the results in the future if I have a lot more responses and the results change noticeably. You can also download an Excel spreadsheet of the survey results, if you’d like to look at the numbers more closely.

For each question, there is a graph of results, followed by summary and then comments.


Q1. How important is each of these factors to you in terms of the selection of fonts that is available to you for use on the Web?

  • Encouraging everyone to use free and open source fonts (29% said “critical” or “very important” / 47% said “not very important” or “irrelevant”)

  • Restricting Web font usage to free and open source fonts, as a way of encouraging everyone to use free and open source fonts.
    (12% said “critical” or “very important” / 75% said “not very important” or “irrelevant”)
  • Being able to use the same fonts for the Web that I do for print.
    (65% said “critical” or “very important” / 9% said “not very important” or “irrelevant”)
  • Being able to use the same fonts on the Web that are part of an existing visual identity (81% said “critical” or “very important” / 7% said “not very important” or “irrelevant”)
  • Being able to use common retail fonts (65% said “critical” or “very important” / 12% said “not very important” or “irrelevant”)

Q1 comments: This was a general question about what factors users care about in terms of what fonts they’d be able to use. Seems like the bottom line is they want to be able to use the fonts they want to use, especially the ones they are already using elsewhere for the same purpose.


Q2. How well would a web font scheme meet your needs as a web designer/producer if:

  • You could ony use fonts that are legally allowed to be freely redistributed? (Free fonts, some shareware fonts, no retail fonts, no fonts that come with common retail applications or operating systems: maybe 3-5% of all the world’s fonts) (15% said “superbly” or “well” / 66% said “poorly” or “not at all”

  • You could only use fonts that have embedding bits that allow preview/print embedding, and whose license terms allow such usage? (Maybe half of all fonts). (54% said “superbly” or “well” / 17% said “poorly” or “not at all”)

Q2 comments: This boils down the previous question into which fonts each proposal would allow. What’s most interesting here is what’s implied but not stated (because I didn’t ask the question): what users really want is to use any font. Even being able to use about half of all retail fonts Is still not perfect – although massively better than being restricted to free and open source fonts.


Q3. How likely would you be to do each of these things when using fonts on Web pages under one of these proposals? (Please be candid; remember, this survey is anonymous!)

  • Check the font license (EULA) to be sure it was allowed to be used in this way, even if it worked. (56% said “always” or “usually” / 30% said “rarely” or “never”)

  • I’d just use whatever fonts would work, regardless of the license. (26% said “always” or “usually” / 55% said “rarely” or “never”)
  • If a font didn’t work automatically, if I found a utility that allowed me to modify the font to make it work, I’d use it – even if that might not be legal. (13% said “always” or “usually” / 74% said “rarely” or “never”)
  • If the font license (EULA) terms for Web usage were unclear to me, I’d just use the font. (38% said “always” or “usually” / 41% said “rarely” or “never”)
  • If the font license (EULA) terms for Web usage were unclear to me, I’d contact the licensor for clarification. (24% said “always” or “usually” / 51% said “rarely” or “never”)

Q3 comments: This question is trying to survey users about behaviors that retail font developers are likely to be concerned about. I thought it was interesting that most users claimed they’d check the font license, although many would just use “whatever fonts would work.” Even with a utility to make it easy, only a minority would go so far as to hack the fonts – and differences in responses makes it clear that if hacking a font was required to make it work, that would deter a noticeable chunk of people who couldn’t be bothered to check the license to see if usage was legal. But font vendors need to make their licenses clear on these points – a lot of people would use the font if they weren’t sure what the license allowed, and most aren’t eager to contact their font vendor for clarification.

4 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    So, we’re all nearly on the same page as to what we’d tolerate from a new sort of license or usage scheme. Will anyone out there listen?It seems that people have been clamouring for something other than status quo for ages but both the foundries, the consortia, the developers have sat on their hands waiting for someone else to do it. My biggest fear? Someone will finally act but they’ll do so by forming a committee and it will be ten more years before we get anywhere.I feel myself starting on a rant so I’ll stop there before I take any more space.[It's my belief that the best thing about the initial proposal to enable original fonts on Web servers is that it lights a fire under font vendors to do something. However, it remains to be seen how responsive the CSS WG is to the voices of font vendors and Web designers. - T]

  2. garrick says:

    Thanks for posting the results, Thomas. Very interesting results!

  3. John Tranter says:

    Your blog is interesting, but… Frankly, if you can’t be bothered updating your blog more than once a month, please just let it die. People keep coming here to see what’s new, and guess what: there is nothing there that is new. I must have visited your blog twenty times recently, to see no change at all, and no new information, on each of those twenty visits. That is an awful waste of my valuable time. Even well-meaning visitors become bored and irritable when that happens. So please, think about your responsibilities here..With best wishes,Exasperated, of Tunbridge Wells[Oops, missed actually approving this comment. I agree that I need to post more frequently than I was posting. that being said, if you don't like coming to a site and not finding fresh content, maybe an RSS reader is what you need? In the meantime, I have indeed been posting a lot more frequently lately, but I can't promise I'll keep up the pace. - T]

  4. Örgü Modelleri says:

    css Font examples , Properties , Attribute – – //http://www.css-lessons.ucoz.com/font-css-examples.htm

Comments are closed.


Thomas Phinney

Adobe type alumnus (1997–2008), now VP at FontLab, also helped create WebINK at Extensis. Lives in Portland (OR), enjoys board games, movies, and loves spicy food.

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