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Serif vs. Sans Serif Fonts: Which One to Choose?

During my recent work on a theme redesign I accidentally chose a font which made a huge impact on the entire design and look of the theme (the design is still in progress):

When you see the design, your attention will be grabbed by the slide title and the reason for that is ONLY the font i.e. choosing a Sans Serif font for Slide Title would make the entire Slider to look inconspicuous.

That made me think how important is to choose a proper font. So I start reading more about fonts and I’d like to share my findings in this post:

The Difference between Serif vs. Sans Serif

Let’s start with a definition: the Serif font letters (in left) have ornaments and Sans Serif letters (in right) don’t have:

‘Sans’ is a French word and its translation is ‘without’. So, ‘Sans Serif’ means without these letter ornaments.

The most popular Serif font is ‘Times New Roman’ and the most popular Sans font is ‘Arial’.

What Type of Font to Choose?

Historically, the Serif font has been used by Ancient Romans for letters on engraved stones. So, if you make a website about Roman Empire you should probably choose a Serif font, but in rest of the cases there is no strict criteria what font type to choose. However there are some guidelines:

  • Serifs are considered as decorative, classic or formal
  • Sans are considered as light, simple, elegant, minimalist or casual
  • Readability: for average person there is No difference between the two font types, but children, people with dyslexia, elderly read text in Sans Serif font easier than text in Serif font.
  • Serifs are preferred choice for newspapers and books
  • Sans is used by most of the eCommerce and online store sites
  • You can mix them i.e. Titles in Serif and rest of the text in Sans
  • Smaller size text looks better in Sans because Serif fonts usually require more space.

Choose the Right Font for Your Website

I wasn’t able to find a good guideline how to choose a proper font for your website. So, I will try to summarize the approach I usually follow:

  1. Identify the type of your website i.e. eCommerce site, Porfolio, Fashion Blog etc.
  2. Check most popular themes or websites in that niche and identify what font types they use: Serif, Sans or a mix between them
  3. One you have an idea about font types you can check Google fonts for most popular fonts in that time i.e. most popular Sans if you’re restricted to use just Sans fonts.
  4. Also, Headings and Text usually use different fonts so you can check different combinations between these two fonts until you find a good combination which to use.

In conclusion I’d say that there is no a strict rule what font type to choose. But it seems the most popular choices are sans serif or a combination between both i.e. Serif for titles and Sans for text.

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