19 February 2010

[web] A Great Website Design – Marred By Comic Sans

2328.It's easy to complain about Comic Sans, I know, but when you see a website that could have hit it out of the park without it … well, you cry and die a little inside. Something must be said.

I give you the front page for Short Run Cards, one of the many purveyors of fast, inexpensive and (we assume) quality business cards you find today. There is nothing not to like about the website … almost.

Use the link in the previous graf to get a good close look in your browser. But, really, the graphic style is a home-run winner. Retro style, limited palette working it like a champ … and if you watch it long enough, the capital R in the dead-clever sign flickers. The message on the drive-in screen (a clever reference to the name, drawn from the world of movies) flickers and changes.

So, you move down to the text – and there it is. Comic Sans. Overused so much that it's tired even where appropriate.

Now, I don't have a specific beef against Comic Sans except that it's overused. It was originally developed by Vincent Connare for the late, rather unlamented Microsoft BOB user environment (the one which, famously, Melinda Gates was project manager on before she married Teh Bill), it was, as legend has, inspired directly by comic lettering for an appropriate application (one meant to make a user-friendly front end program all that much more chummy and cozy).

Comic Sans has been used in circulars, flyers, warning signs … in as much as this isn't such an inappropriate use, it's fine, but in this context, what it says to me is that the design stopped at the site layout. Every part of a website communicates, and if a little more care were chosen in choosing the font to support the design, this would have been completely kicked up to the next level, rather than almost made it.

So, suggestions. It's one thing to carp, it's another thing to offer an alternative. Happily, there are alternatives for Comic Sans out there! A few of them are even free!
  • Visit:  Ban Comic Sans for this list of free fonts for both Mac and Windows. BCS has adopted a kind of Vandal-storm-the-castle approach, but they do offer alternatives for the overused font. Many of them are quite pretty and are designed well.
  • Visit: Blambot http://www.blambot.com/. Blambot is nothing but comic-style fonts. There is a range of free fonts amongst the even-larger range of retail fonts. There's a lot to like here too.
  • Visit: Fontscape Comic Sans Alternatives at http://www.fontscape.com/explore?9BU. The top three alone are more than able alternatives to CS that look good, have about the same approach, and by simply not being CS send the message that "hey, the designer thought about the font and didn't just go with the default.
  • Visit and Read: Chris Barr's "The Comic Sans Effect" at http://chris-barr.com/entry/the_comic_sans_effect/. Also writes about Papyrus, the thinking man's Comic Sans. And suggests alternatives.
Point is, even where it's appropriately used, CS can communicate a lack of imagination, and on a website as good-looking as Short Run Cards's is, that's a pity. It makes a great website just a teensy bit less great.

(hat tip to DesignThatRocks, who pointed me to this website via one of his tweets)

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Benjamin Lukoff said...

Not only the Comic Sans, but (here's the editor talking) hyphens where em dashes should be, "signup" as one word instead of two, all caps, extraneous guillemets, overuse of title case, and the infamous hyperlinked "click here."

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

That's why designers need proofreaders and reporters need copy editors. You've nailed it.

Also, you have m4d s|<illZ.

Good catch on the guillemets. A link says you're going elsewhere; the marks themselves are a redundancy.

Design That Rocks said...

Great post...glad you took the Comic Sans issue on this site a step further. I agree with all your comments.

Hopefully I dont run across any more comic sans heavy sites, but if I do, I will tweet them your way again!