Reference text web fonts: ITC vs. URW Baskerville vs. Buenard vs. Caslon

I spent a couple of hours today looking at web fonts for legible reference text. After reading the New York Times experiment finding that Baskerville is “the king of fonts”, I thought I’d give it a try, comparing it with a couple of others for legibility.

I first researched web fonts that I could test inexpensively. Then I tested them on a real web page. Here’s what I found. Currently, text (and nearly everything else) is Helvetica Neue. (All screenshots from a Mac. I’ll post IE tests soon.)

The sidebar is Trebuchet because I found that it’s more legible for small numbers. I like the way this looks, simply visually. But legibility-wise, I believe the text (“The presidential…”) is harder to scan with the eye than it ought to be.

Font of the Baskervilles?

While looking for Baskerville web fonts, I found Buenard via Google Web Fonts. It’s very close to Baskerville, and I find it amazingly legible:

Finally, all the fonts for comparison:

Helvetica Neue
ITC New Baskerville
URW++ Baskerville
Buenard
Caslon 540

My take: In Buenard, the words hold together the best. The letter spacing is tight and the font is heavy. I feel like it’s super-easy to read. In comparison, in Caslon and Helvetica Neue, the words don’t hold together as well. The fonts look good, but for web text to be read on a screen, I think that Buenard is the best here.

Related Posts

Making the California Laws Easy to Read

Screen Shot 2012-06-24 at 10.41.08 PMI’ve been doing a lot of work to get the California Codes online, and I now have something to show for it. This is a screenshot of Business & Professions Code Section 22947.4, an anti-spyware statute. (Which is pretty cool; I wonder if Oregon has something similar. Anyone know?)

For comparison, here’s the original code as its presented on the state’s website. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the fonts, white-space, outlining, and navigation. Ahead on my roadmap:

  • Print feature
  • Citations to sources
  • Legal news
  • Interlinked & related statutes
  • Smart search