Web Fonts: Feedback, Fonts and Features


Chris Roberts in Archive on September 16, 2010

Earlier this week we announced the commercial availability of Web Fonts. Thanks to over 15,000 beta testers, the wealth of feedback collected over the past several months was channeled into the product development process to create a truly user-focused offering. Bolstered by a vastly expanded font selection and raft of new user requested features, we believe Web Fonts combines the best selection, best language support and the best workflow solution to represent the obvious choice for anyone interested in deploying Web fonts. Here are several examples of how you, the user, helped to create the service that we introduced.

More of the “right” fonts
Apparently, when it comes to fonts, there is no such thing as “enough”. “More fonts” was a very common request from our beta users. In response, we have increased our selection from 2,200 to over 7,500 fonts. But quantity is meaningless without quality. We heard loud and clear that your design projects call for “the right fonts.” Professional designers know that fonts like Helvetica®, Frutiger®, Univers®, Trade Gothic®, Eurostile®, ITC Avant Garde Gothic®, Rotis®, and Optima® are typographic non-negotiables when it comes to supporting corporate identity, branding and advertising. These are just a few of the core essentials included among the 7,500 high quality Web fonts that make up this unrivaled collection.  We also heard that Web fonts need to look their best across various browsers and operating systems. All of our Web fonts have been reviewed by Monotype Imaging’s world-class font engineering and quality assurance teams. Using a combination of proprietary font optimization tools and hinting strategies, we worked to achieve the best possible results at every point size and across every operating system and browser combination. Many of our Web fonts have been designed specifically with screen display in mind. Monotype Imaging is committed to innovating new ways to maximize on-screen rendering quality. As quality improvements are made, Web font data will be updated automatically, meaning your websites will always look and perform state-of-the-art. But this is just the beginning. Going forward, every new typeface release from Monotype®, Linotype® and ITC® will also be introduced as a Web font. Additionally, we are working with many of our foundry partners on to bring their collections to Web Fonts. As our selection grows, so will your creative freedom.

Language Support
Our beta testers told us they need to support a global audience. Why would anyone limit themselves to a service that can only reach half of it? We’ve added fonts and technology to enable support for every major language, including patent-pending technology to overcome the challenges of serving East Asian fonts. The majority of our Web fonts include a full Basic Latin-1 character set. These fonts cover popular Western European languages such as Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. We also provide a wide selection of fonts that cover a Latin extended 1 character set supporting Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian and Turkish. We also offer a variety of world language fonts to cover non-Latin scripts such as Cyrillic, Greek, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Arabic, Hebrew, Armenian and Devanagari. It’s a big world. Think global.

Workflow support (don’t make me pay twice!)
This one was a doozey. Users told us that they needed installable versions of their fonts to support their workflow. They explained that their design process did not begin in the browser, but in applications like Adobe Photoshop® and Illustrator®. They make mock-ups and send them to their customers and co-workers as part of the design process. They told us that Web fonts are great, but don’t replace the need for desktop installed fonts in the workflow. Actually, Web fonts increase the need to have fonts installed locally. It’s now more important than ever for Web designers to be able to convince others of the value of using non-system fonts in their Web designs. Bottom line: they need to be able to download the fonts and use them in their desktop applications. Oh…and they don’t want to buy them twice. As you might imagine, we had some animated internal debate over this one. In the end, and as should always be the case, the customer’s need drove the decision. We decided that we would provide a Professional level subscription that would allow users to download fonts for workflow support. Professional plan subscribers receive 50 desktop downloads every 30 days. Desktop downloads include a one workstation license. To be downloaded, an eligible font must be included in a project. Fonts can be used to support the workflow as long as the user maintains their Professional subscription.

iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch support
Our customers love gadgets. We do too. Our homes have been infiltrated by iPhones®, iPods® and iPads®. Our beta users insisted that we support Mobile Safari. Easier said than done. You may have heard or read that these devices have a unique approach to Web font support. Common font formats are not supported, so some significant cycles went into getting this one right. We learned that some folks out there had tried to support Web fonts on these devices with mixed results. We took great care to study this situation so that we would avoid the problems others were experiencing. The result is robust iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch support. No crashing browsers here, just beautifully rendered Web fonts in the palm of your hand.

Non-JavaScript publishing
Another consistent request was for support of a non-JavaScript publishing method. JavaScript is a great standards based way to deploy functionality to a website. JavaScript is supported by all major browsers, but there are circumstances under which it’s just not the right approach. If this is your situation, you will be glad to learn that we provide our Standard and Professional tier subscribers with the option of JavaScript or Non-JavaScript publishing methods. Even if JavaScript is fine for you today, it’s nice to know you have the choice to use either.

Private font support
This was another tricky one. There are many companies out there who have custom typefaces that support their brand identity. Naturally, they need to be able to deploy these fonts in their Web font projects, without releasing them into the general population. Our solution… you provide the fonts with proof of a proper license, we upload them into your account so that only you can use them. It’s kind of like bringing your own wine to a restaurant. You bring, we pour. BYOF.

Improve the portal user interface and usability
We hear ya. We received some very candid feedback on the portal user interface and usability. We also did some usability lab testing on this one. While we were able to take care of several of the more glaring issues, there are remaining things that need to be done. We’ve got a big list of improvements lined up.

Pricing was probably the most commonly expressed concern. It seemed like everyone was anxious about it (including us). Generally, the feedback seemed to be, “we get it that this is a premium offering, but please make sure it’s affordable.” There was also a very specific concern expressed about making sure beta users had plenty of time to upgrade to a commercial plan before the colophon badge would display on their sites. In addition to the feedback we received from beta users, we conducted focus group testing during which we asked users for their thoughts about pricing. We found that users expected that it would cost something (Phew!), and that a usage-based subscription fee model made sense. What also seemed consistent was that users did not want to be saddled with a long term commitment, wanted the ability to try it out first, didn’t want any tricky limitations, and as mentioned above, did not want to have to pay for the fonts twice (once for Web font use and again for desktop use). To address these needs, we took several actions. We decided to offer a feature rich Free plan that would include all of the same 2,200+ fonts that were available during beta and a generous allowance of 25,000 page views per month. To address the colophon badge requirement concern, we decided to waive it until 2011, giving our beta users over 3 months to decide if they wish to upgrade or stay with the free plan. We also decided that all tiers should be free of arbitrary limitations on domains per account and fonts per site. As a result every account type (even free accounts) can have unlimited domains per account and unlimited fonts per site. To make this even easier to take advantage of, we also decided to provide SSL and subdomain wildcard support for every account type. So that users don’t end up paying for capacity they don’t need, we offer 10 different page view allowance plans, and monthly rather than annual commitments. If your traffic goes up next month, you can upgrade to a higher plan, if it goes down you can downgrade to a lower plan. No long-term commitments. The price points we arrived at were informed by the focus group feedback we received. Some users suggested higher prices, and some suggested lower. We arrived somewhere in the middle with an offering that provides access to over 7,500 premium Web fonts for as little as $10 per month. For those who want access to premium Web fonts but don’t want to pay anything at all, we have a free plan that offers 2,200 web fonts for free…zip… As a reminder, the colophon badge requirement for the free account has been waived until 2011…so don’t wait.

There’s so much more in the pipeline that I would love to write about, but it will have to wait for another day. Besides, we should be using this time to beautify the Web!

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