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Why Bad Fonts Can Mean Bad Online Sales

Is it possible that using bad font can mean bad online sales or conversions for your website? Based on research at a few British universities, it most certainly can!

According to a study published at the end of 2014, it was shown that the content and presentation of information plays a part in the perceived complexity of a task. I’m sure you are thinking, “Well gosh that is interesting, but how the heck does that relate to my web conversions?”

Let’s find out!

Cognitive fluency and users

We have used the term ‘cognitive fluency’ in past posts because it relates to the decision making process which is a critical aspect of an intuitive user interface design. But, it also plays a part in simply reading content on a site.

Cognitive fluency is typically defined as the ease or difficulty of completing a mental task. Our brains have an interesting quirk that takes place with tasks that have a higher cognitive fluency requirement. Basically the harder it is for our brains to process something, the more difficult and time-consuming that task is unconsciously considered by us.

From the British study, when instructions were presented in a font that was harder to read, the activities described seemed more complex and thus more difficult to complete. In the study, people were given the same instructions with different fonts.

What this means from a design and marketing perspective is that choosing the wrong fonts can actually cause you to shoot yourself in the foot by making your efforts unconsciously harder for users deal with.

What fonts to use?

Your goal is to get visitors to take some form of action. Using a “difficult” font will make them less likely to take that action. For example, completing a sign-up form for a newsletter, if done in the wrong font, will seem unconsciously difficult or time consuming which would then lead to a lower conversion rate.

Fonts to use:

  • Helvetica
  • Calibri
  • Roboto
  • Arial
  • Source Sans Pro

Fonts to avoid:

  • Decorative fonts
  • Script fonts
  • Heavy italic fonts
  • Odd shaped fonts
  • Embossed fonts

It is difficult to make a comprehensive list given the variety of fonts out there, but these lists should allow you to get the idea. Generally speaking, the harder to read it is at a glance, the less fluent people will be in digesting it.

On the flip side you could use harder to read fonts as a way to direct users to your preferred choices on a screen, however that usage should be heavily tested before implementing to prevent it from backfiring.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that you need to keep it simple when trying to turn a visitor into a lead or a customer. As cool as all the typography available out there is and as much as we want to utilize fonts to showcase our brand or style and set us apart from competitors, we do need to be wary of stepping too far out.

Bad fonts can mean bad online sales while simpler fonts will help maximize your conversion rate.

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