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Web Fonts – The State of the Web

”, My guest is Dave. Crossland He’s the program manager For Google Fonts And today we’re Going to be talking about the state of web fonts –, what are they, how to use them? Effectively and what’s new, Let’s get started, [ MUSIC PLAYING ], So Dave. Thank you. For being here, My first question is: About why web fonts, What do they bring to a website? Beyond the standard fonts like Helvetica DAVE, CROSSLAND Well, Web fonts really express a certain kind of Feeling for organizations They express a brand And you can have a web Page without a article, but you can’t have a Web page without text You have to have fonts And so a brand at its core Would be like a logo, a color and a typeface or a font, And so web fonts bring The kind of rich design that we have in print Media to the web, RICK VISCOMI And according To the HTTP Archive nearly one third of Websites use a font from the Google Fonts API, So why are developers turning To the Google Fonts API DAVE CROSSLAND, I would say That Google Fonts is fast, easy and free And so on.

Our Analytics page we’ve clocked up over 22 trillion. Font views in total since the service Launched in 2010 – And I think that being on Google’s content, distribution networks, we benefit From cross-site caching, So when you visit the First website that uses a font like Roboto, it’s downloaded and you may see Some latency there, But then on all Subsequent websites, which use the font From Google Fonts, then it’s in a cache And loads instantly across the different websites, We also try and Make it really easy So the font’s API Abstracts, a lot of the complexities of web Font technology from you, So we serve different formats.

To different browsers, For example, with better Compression formats, like WOFF2, only the newer Browsers support those, And so we serve WOFF2 files. To those newer browsers And we serve other Formats to older browsers And then finally We make things free and we have a directory of Hundreds of choices which everybody can choose from Now, of course, if you Want a particular typeface, then it may not be Available in Google Fonts and you would go and license That font for your usage, But not everybody, has the Sophistication in design or the resources To license fonts And I think it’s important That everyone in the world is able to do typography, RICK VISCOMI, So I don’t Know if developers truly appreciate how complicated Web fonts are under the hood.

I got a taste of this when I Was at YouTube a few years ago, I helped change the Default font to Roboto, and it was not as easy as just Changing the font-family CSS style, There’s a lot you need to do to Make sure that it goes smoothly for the users and they Have a good experience, For example, like YouTube users, Are from all around the world, They have different languages. Different alphabets, What are some of the Things that developers need to be concerned about For an international audience, DAVE CROSSLAND International Users face a challenge because the file sizes Of fonts, for them can be larger than just For European languages Traditionally Google Fonts has done a kind of slicing of Fonts into language or writing system sets, So we might have, for example, Latin Latin Extended Cyrillic Cyrillic Extended Greek Greek, Extended and Vietnamese: That’s your current support for Roboto that’s used on YouTube.

We also support Other languages — Hebrew, Arabic, Thai, Many different Indian writing systems And the biggest Challenge has been for Chinese Japanese And Korean fonts, A typical font for Indian languages can maybe be two or three times Larger than a European font, But for East Asia it can Be a hundred times bigger And so we’ve been able to Use a number of technologies, for example WOFF2 Compression which is now a W3C standard this year, And also the @ font-face Css has a new aspect called unicode-range.

Unicode-Range allows us to Slice, the fonts into pieces, dynamically And the browser will Only download the pieces that it needs, So that means that We were able to slice a Chinese, Japanese or Korean Font into over a hundred slices And therefore the Latency of each slice is similar to your European font, This means that the experience Latency is much better And because the Slices are cached across different Domains then the font gets faster and faster To load over time, RICK VISCOMI Custom fonts have Also been used for icon fonts to show images And more recently, they’ve Been used for emoji as well, So we’re moving beyond just Text and on to these other ways that we’re using to communicate, But it’s not without its Own challenges, right, DAVE, CROSSLAND, That’s right! Font technologies are always Improving and evolving And the use of emoji as a kind Of special case of icon fonts is particularly interesting.

I think that there’s a Debate in the web development community about how To best approach this Using images for icons, whether That’s PNG or SVG vector images is –. There are some advantages there. One of the advantages To using icon fonts is that aligning icons with Text in labels is often is a common use case And getting the alignment Onto the baseline of text can be tricky when You’re dealing with two elements: — a text Element and a image element And so icon fonts can Play a good role there.

They also have good legacy. Support because obviously text systems work everywhere. Unfortunately, for Emoji and color fonts that’s a little bit. More complicated because there are Different color formats for different platforms, And so one font file needs To have a lot of data to support all of the Platforms at once And they can look different On different platforms, So yeah emoji as web fonts Is still I think, kind of — is a cutting-edge thing, But it can add.

Consistency – and I hope we see more developments – Of that in the future RICK VISCOMI And going Back to the Roboto at YouTube example: one Of the things I remembered that was kind of tricky Was when we would have font-weight bold in our styles, That would default to Weight 700 by the browser, But our designers decided that It looked best as weight 500, So we actually had to go back. And change all of our styles from font-weight, bold To font-weight 500 And it became kind Of a new way that we had to ingrain into Our style development, But there’s something new.

That’s Coming out called variable fonts, How would they help Address the situation, DAVE, CROSSLAND, Yeah Variable fonts can help a lot. It’s a very exciting. New technology, It’s part of the Opentype standard, which is the font format that that’s Widely supported in pretty much all platforms today And variations allows you To do runtime interpolation between different sort of styles, Or faces within a font family, So traditionally you would Have like a thin weight, a regular weight, a bold Weight and extra bold weight And in CSS you’ve only Had up to nine weights — 100 through 900 With variations, then you are Able to specify weight, 154 and dial in a very specific And dynamic weight You can animate these weight.

Changes using CSS animations And in CSS4 there’s more Direct support for this RICK VISCOMI So does that Mean that every font is now going to be able to be Completely customizable, Or are only a few fonts going To be eligible for this DAVE CROSSLAND Well, it is something that font developers Need to add to fonts, And so in that Way it breaks down the traditional wall between the Font maker and the font user And so variable Fonts create a kind of dialogue between the two, So as a font user, you Can customize the font, but only in ways which the Font maker has provided for, And so that means that you don’t Need to become a type designer yourself, but it means that you Have that flexibility that you didn’t have before And the variations are Not only for font weight, There’s, also font width, There’s slanting And there’s also optical size, And those are all part of The OpenType standard today Optical sizing, means that When you change your font size from 10 point to 70 Point then, the letter forms will actually react and Respond to that change, And so, as your font Size gets larger.

The letter forms will Become more elegant And as it gets smaller They can become more legible, more readable And there’s also all other kinds. Of variations, you can imagine, which aren’t part Of the standard and are specific to each font, Things like rounding and many creative options. Google Fonts is commissioned. To sort of experimental trial fonts from type designer David Berlow at Type Network.

The first is Decovar, which Has a lot of variations which are decorative so rounding Different kinds of serifs different kinds of Stroke patterns And this can be used as a Kind of graphical device, Because variations Can be animated, I think there’s a lot. Of potential there, The other typeface is Amstelvar And Amstelvar is A text typeface and it has a set Of parametric axes which go far beyond Just weight and width and into things like The ascender length descender length and A lot of variations which can be used together, To create more readable text, RICK VISCOMI, I’m Especially interested about variable fonts, We’re going to have to Have you back on the show once they’re a little Bit more established, Then we can talk about The state of them, But where could Developers go if they want to learn more about Any of these technologies DAVE CROSSLAND Microsoft Edge has on their developer site a Really good variable, fonts demo site That’s a great place to learn.

More about variable fonts, There’s also the Design.Google.Com/Fonts articles website, where the Google Fonts team publishes articles about type and Typography in collaboration with the Google Design team And then there’s Also material.Io, where you can get the Material Design, icons, font and learn more about Material Design guidelines, RICK VISCOMI, Well, there you go, The links are in The description so go check them out.

Share your web fonts stories. In the comments below Don’t forget to Like and subscribe so you can tune in For another episode of “, The State of the Web” Every other Wednesday, Thanks for reading and We’ll see you next time, [ MUSIC PLAYING ]


 

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