In this second look at the best web font services, we take a gander at Fontspring, Fontdeck, Typotheque, Fonts Live, and WebType.
There is no doubt that the web is a constantly evolving creature. However, it seems that certain facets of it have evolved at a pretty slow pace, especially when it comes to the always troubling terrain of typography. Heavily shaken by the winds of copyright issues from long ago, this arena has been stuck for years, a fact that made web designers live with the cruel punishment of having to use only a limited number of web-safe fonts across their projects.
Fortunately, things are starting to change for good, thanks to the birth of a growing amount of online companies, popularly known as web font embedding services. Backed up by an impressive CDN (like Google and Typekit, which have really big wallets) these contenders have brought a new and fresh air to the typographical web, and today itís really simple and affordable to spice up websites with a plethoric variety of commercial fonts, something that was impossible to imagine just a few years ago.
If you had the chance to take a peek at the first installment of this tutorial, at this point you have a pretty clear idea of how some of these services work and what they offer to the average designer, as in that chapter I made a quick roundup of five of the most important players in the field (at least according to my personal opinion).
Being one of the newest contenders in the field of web-font embedding services, Fontspring (http://www.fontspring.com/) is a relatively young company, whose library is comprised of over 2,550 families of fonts, which are available in more than 30 different languages. Similar to other rivals previously covered in this review, some of its typefaces are offered for free, and the commercial ones can be purchased either individually or as an entire family (single payments vary from a few tens of bucks per font to $520, if you decide to buy a whole font family).
In addition, Fontspring gives you the possibility to buy fonts for desktop use, which is a good bonus. Once you pick up a few fonts and make payment, they can be downloaded right away in a pretty fast manner. Itís also worth noting that all the typographies are available for Mac and Windows and come in different formats, including the typical TrueType, WOFF, EOT and SVG.
Quite possibly, the serviceís most appealing feature is the lack of restrictions when it comes to embedding fonts, as you can use them regardless of your bandwidth, the traffic that you drag onto your website(s) or the number of sites that you own. Definitively, a good option worth taking into account.
Fontdeck (http://fontdeck.com) is a service created in 2009 by ClearLeft (http://clearleft.com), OmniTI and Jon Tan, which has a pretty huge gallery of nearly 800 font families (and growing). This provider requires you to go through a brief registration process, something that admittedly is a bit annoying, but at the same time gives you the chance to try its fonts for free, as long as you keep your website visitors limited to 20 unique users (or IP addresses). Certainly, an interesting approach that lets you share your typographical work with your potential customers.
If youíre willing to buy the font of your dreams, you can choose it from a plethoric variety of prices, starting as low as $ 2.50 per font, through an annual fee. And if this doesnít sound catchy enough for you, subscription plans are extremely flexible and affordable, as prices will remain the same as long as you donít exceed a limit of up to 1 million hits per month for your website (and unlimited bandwidth). Of course, if youíre lucky enough and exceed this traffic limit, youíll have to make an additional monthly payment.
Typotheque (http://www.typotheque.com/webfonts) is a provider of web fonts created in the Netherlands in 2009 and directed by Peter Bilak, Johanna Bilak and Nikola Djurek. The service has a pretty prolific gallery of nearly 600 individual typographies and over 30 families of typefaces, which were all created by the serviceís owners.
Typotheque offers an extensive coverage for over 200 languages, including those with a Latin origin, Creek, Cyrillic, Arabic, Armenian, and Devanagari scripts. Additionally, the company provides support for most modern browsers and mobile devices for Safari.
In the terrain of subscription plans, Typotheque lets you try a 30 day free license, called Web Trial License, and two commercial ones, known as Web License and Full License respectively, which can be purchased through a single payment. As one might expect, the former covers the use of fonts only for the web, while the latter includes both web and printing use.
Costs vary according to the selected fonts and customer requirements, so be sure to check its handy Price Calculator utility (http://www.typotheque.com/licensing/price_calculator) to find out exactly what you should pay for a given license or typeface. Also, itís valid to point out that the service offers an initial bandwidth of up to 500MB per month, and if for whatever reasons, you exceed this limit, you must pay an extra fee of Ä5.00 per each additional GB.
To sum up: while the font library offered by Typotheque isnít as extensive as the ones provided by other competitors discussed before, the quality and affordability of the service is quite remarkable. Certainly, a contender worth looking at.
Fonts Live (http://www.fontslive.com) is a provider of web fonts owned by Monotype Imaging. The service has a varied gallery of over 500 high-quality fonts, which come in multiple languages and popular formats, such as TrueType, EOT (5-8), WOFF (9), SVG and SVG (3.0). As with other providers, Live Fonts also offers support for all modern browsers, as well as for mobile devices such as Android and BlackBerryģ.
On the other hand, the service has a nice wealth of flexible annual plans, according to different user requirements, including a 30 day free license, along with a few commercial subscriptions, categorized as Small website (250,000 page views and a annual fee of $40), Medium website (1 million pageviews, with a payment of $160/year), and finally Large website (5 million pageviews, starting at $800/year).
Like others providers, getting started using Live Fonts is a snap. Youíll only have to go through a simple and quick registration process, which begins with the selection of the desired fonts and the domain(s) where youíre going to use them. Once you get these things completed, you can start consuming the service by copying and pasting a small CSS fragment on your web pages.
To sumarize: while the quality of the fonts offered by Live Fonts is undeniably top-notch, the prices of subscriptions are slightly higher, especially when compared to other suppliers.
WebType (http://www.webtype.com) is the fruit of the collaborative effort of The Font Bureau (http://www.fontbureau.com), DevBridge (http://www.devbridge.com), Roger Black and Petr van Blokland. The service has a pretty huge gallery comprised of over 400 high-quality typographies, with an extensive coverage for different languages. And, like other competitors in the field, the company provides support for most modern browsers and mobile devices.
In addition, WebType offers a few different annual plans including a 30 day free license, and three commercial subscriptions: Small website (250,000 pageviews and a fee starting at $40), Medium website (1 million pageviews and a payment starting from $160) and Large website (2,5 million pageviews and an annual fee from $400). In general, prices vary according to the selected typographies and customer requirements, thus to find out exactly what you should pay for each font, be sure to check the corresponding subscription catalog here (http://www.webtype.com/catalog/).
To make long things short: the prices offered by WebType are subly more expensive than the ones provided by other players. So, if you have a pretty fat pocket and donít mind to spend a few more dollars renting a web font embedding service, WebType might be the option that youíre looking for.
Over the course of this two-part tutorial, I attempted to provide you with a quick and concise guide on the most relevant web font embedding services available nowadays. From this humble overview, itís clear to see that in general, the bunch of facilities offered by the services are pretty similar, regardless of some subtle details, particularly in the area of subscription plans.
As youíll possibly agree with me, though, the word that best describes the services in question is ďaffordableĒ; so unless that you have a really, really tight budget, picking up one or more commercial typefaces for giving a professional touch to your web pages is no longer a prohibitive process.
See you in the next web design tutorial!
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