Grouping Web Fonts by Family


David Harned in Archive on November 1, 2013 Web Fonts - Group by Font Family
We’ve always worked to ensure Web Fonts is fast, reliable and easy to use. Today I’m excited to announce a new option that many of you (and us) have anticipated for some time. We are now providing the option for Web fonts to be grouped by font family, allowing you to use different weights under one CSS family name. This allows for more standards-based CSS and cleaner HTML within your site.

If you’d rather reference fonts as individual weights, or you’re simply comfortable with the service as it is: don’t worry; we offer this new approach as an option when creating projects – so all of your existing projects haven’t changed. We recommend using this new capability with new projects as you move forward.

I’ll show you how it works.


First, a little background if you’re wondering why our service wasn’t architected this way originally. Grouping Web fonts by family isn’t new; this was always the intention based on the W3C spec for CSS. But, back in 2010 when we launched Web Fonts, browser support wasn’t where it is today.

Back then, while you could group fonts by family using @font-face, these configurations frequently caused Safari browsers in iOS 3 to crash – not something we wanted our customers to experience. This was corrected with iOS 4.2. With users now migrating to iOS 7, this issue is in the distant past, so the time is right for us to make this change.

Let’s take a look at our font handling prior to today’s release.


Historically, our Web fonts have been referenced individually, each within its own family. Today, this remains the default option for new projects, and developers using this existing implementation do not need to make any changes to continue using the service.

As always, you would simply include the JS or CSS reference to our service into the <head> of your site as follows:

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

We handle the @font-face declarations, so you can just reference fonts individually, with each weight in its own family.

font-family:'Metro Nova W01 Regular';
font-family:'Metro Nova W01 Bold';
font-family:'Metro Nova W01 Italic';

Let’s say you want to use a bold weight to show when using the <strong> tag within a paragraph of text. Let’s assume you also have a section of the paragraph you want to render in the italic typeface within that family using the <em> tag.

Your page code would look like this:

<p>This is a paragraph of text and <strong> this section is bold</strong>, while the rest is not. However, <em>this section is italic</em>.</p>

Assuming you don’t want the browser to distort the regular weight font to create a pseudo bold or italic effect, this would require you to call out a new font family every time you wanted to change a typeface to make it bold or italic, so that the different font would be referenced.

Your CSS code would look like this:

p {font-family:'Metro Nova W01 Regular'; font-size:2em;}
p strong {font-family:'Metro Nova W01 Bold'; font-weight:normal;}
p em {font-family:'Metro Nova W01 Italic'; font-style:normal;}

For the bold weight font, you would need to give it a font-weight:normal value since you’d be using the “normal” instance of the bold font. For the italic font you’d also need to assign a font-style:normal value since you’d be using the “normal” instance of the italic font. It’s a bit awkward but required so that the right weights and styles are applied when each font is referenced within its own family.

The end result would look like this:

Not Family Grouped

That works. Now let’s check out the new option you have.


Now there is another way. Once you enable font family grouping, we group the families together and allow control over the CSS font-weight (100-900) and CSS font-style (normal, italic). We default these to values we think would work best, but you can actually set them to whatever works for you and your project.

First, open the project and then launch the “Add & Edit Fonts” window to “Enable Family Grouping”.

Add and Edit Fonts Modal - Default

Then adjust the CSS Font-weight and CSS Font-style – or just leave them as is!

Add and Edit Fonts Modal - Family Grouping Enabled

Once you have everything the way you like it, save your changes. Take a look at your Publish Options, and you’ll see that now the font families are grouped together and you can reference them within a single family like this, instead of as three.

font-family:'Metro Nova W01';

Now, using the example from above, you would reference them this way within your CSS code.

p {font-family:'Metro Nova W01'; font-size:2em;}

The regular (400) weight is used for the default weight. The bold weight (700) is now referenced automatically by the browser when you use the <strong> tag just like the italic version would be referenced when you use the <em> tag. Here is the html again for what gets rendered to the page.

<p>This is a paragraph of text and <strong> this section is bold</strong>, while the rest is not. However, <em>this section is italic</em>.</p>

The end result would look like this.

Family Grouped

Looks the same, but with less code and with code that is more standards based.

Let’s say, however, that the bold weight just isn’t bold enough for your design. Hop back over to the “Add & Edit Fonts” window and change the extra black weight to be “700” and then set the bold weight to something else – not 700 so there is no conflict with the fonts in the family.

Changing the extra black weight to bold

Save your changes and publish your project again. Now the browser will pick up the 700 weight that you assigned and will reference the extra black weight instead. Your page looks like this. Nice!

Family Grouped using the extra black weight


That’s it. You can enable and disable this feature as you see fit for your different projects. Give it a try!

As with any new technology implementation, it is good practice to not try switching an existing live project to enable this feature without some testing, as it very well could affect the rendering of your site, as it will modify the CSS that gets delivered. To avoid disrupting sites on which you’ve already implemented Web fonts, we recommend that you start using the family grouping options with a new project. For more detail on how this feature impacts your CSS, view this FAQ .

We hope this new feature improves your experience with Web Fonts and makes it easier than ever to bring beautiful typography to the Web.

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