Why we talk about web safe fonts in email

Why we talk about web safe fonts in email
You will probably have heard mention in email marketing articles, the term "web safe fonts" or "web friendly fonts" and how they are crucial if you want to ensure that your emails look the same to everyone that receives them.

Yet in the next breath you'll hear email designers stating that the most reliable method of coding emails bears no resemblance to that used for web pages!

What does the term "web safe font" mean?

Web safe fonts are a set of generic and reliable font styles that everyone should have access to, a kind of common denominator.

In days of old (aka the 20th century!) a web safe font was a term generally used to describe a text style which was universally available on everybody's computer. As most web pages contain real text, by using these fonts web designers could pretty much rely on the fact that their work would look the same on every screen.

Where web pages and emails part company

In more recent times, style sheets (CSS) have given designers more scope in the range of fonts that can be used on web pages. In these instances, the text style you see on a web page might not necessarily be one that's installed on your PC or device, but being "pulled into" a page from another hosted area.

[ There's a nice explanation in an article here - How do web fonts work? ]

Although we do now implement some CSS in email design, not everyone thinks it's a good idea to use too much as the results are variable between email readers. So we usually stick to one of the web friendly fonts listed below and then no matter where or how the email is opened, the person reading your email should have the font installed on their computer/device it will look just how you planned it to.

The core web safe fonts (or email friendly as I think we should start referring to them as!) are:
      • Arial
      • Arial Black
      • Comic Sans MS
      • Courier New
      • Georgia
      • Impact
      • Tahoma
      • Times New Roman
      • Verdana

And then along came mobile

Just to confuse matters, the range of font styles available on different mobile platforms varies quite a bit and so the likelihood is that you will need to pick the closest alternative for your emails to use on mobile.

But more of that in my next blog!

Additional resources for designers

For more information about which fonts come as standard on commonly used operating systems, please follow these links: