Choosing the Right Typography for Your Medical Website
The fonts you use can help or hurt your branding message.
An attractive, well-designed website is the hallmark of any good medical marketing. From the layout of your website to the images you use to the language in your copy, every component of your website serves a purpose.
The first purpose of your website is to serve as the first impression to your customers. Your website is often the first thing people will notice about your business. An attractive website that’s easy to navigate will tell people that your business is one that’s trustworthy and takes pride in what it does. A website that’s frustrating and put together with little thought and strategy will tell people that your medical practice doesn’t take enough pride in what they do and who they serve to invest in quality medical website design.
One component of medical marketing that people don’t think about is the typography used on a website. Think about different products you use and how various brands use a font.
A beer producer is going to use a font that’s edgy and says that it promises a good time. A multi-billion dollar corporation is going to use a font that communicates that it is strong and capable. And a children’s daycare center might use one that’s colorful and fun. Each brand uses a font and color scheme that communicates the essence of their company and brand.
What is Brand Essence?
Your brand essence is the heart and soul of your brand. It’s the constant that you carry throughout your products, how your staff interacts with patients, and what you stand for as a business. It usually can be said in three words, and in medical marketing might look something like, “quality, integrity, compassion.”
It’s whatever you want your practice to be known for.
What is Typography?
Typography is the art of arranging type – letters and characters. How you arrange those letters in website design for medical professionals can tell visitors can send different messages to visitors to your website.
The height, thickness, point size, line length, and spacing all play a role in typography arrangement. In the past, people would arrange letters physically, but thanks to today’s computers, open source fonts, and photo editing tools arranging typography is much easier.
What’s So Important About Typography?
Typography makes a big impact through little changes. The spacing between letters and thickness of letters can impact how easy your content is to read on smaller screens. For example, Helvetica Neue was used by Apple prior to switching to an in-house font. They created a new font that allowed for more breathing room between letters and would ultimately read better on their iPads and iPhones.
As you begin to think about how to integrate typography into website design for healthcare professionals, think about who your audience is. Older people might need a bigger font that has more spacing between letters, while a younger audience might enjoy smaller fonts with unique curves.
What’s the difference between fonts and typefaces?
Although font and typeface are used interchangeably, these words actually mean two different things. Typeface refers specifically to what you see in a creative piece, whereas font is the physical collection of letters and characters.
The Impact of Typography on Your Medical Website
Many in the medical profession may make the mistake of thinking the style of their typography should be an “in your face” type style. Consider who will be searching for the website. Usually, it will be prospective patients or possibly competitors for your market share. It may be said website design predicates the need for a well-chosen format that is an indication of the professionals it represents.
Within quality medical website design lies the need to punctuate the content with a legible, easy to read font. This is especially important for medical websites that contain technical terminology that may be read by other professionals within the medical community.
Tools of Typography You Should Know
Choose typography that offers optimal white space between alpha and numeric characters so these characters are not misinterpreted. For example, if there are chemical terms to be included that contain superscript or subscript letters or numbers, the choice should allow for sufficient leading, kerning and tracking so these terms do not run together and become misunderstood or difficult to read.
To better understand leading and kerning, it is necessary to know these are adjustments made to space between typed characters in text.
Leading keeps the spaces between lines of text from being too close together. Kerning controls the space between each character so that alpha letters with “tails” or serifs do not cling to characters located before or after them.
Tracking is another part of typography that’s important to understand because it gives a “finished” look to each line of typed text so that important medical terms are not broken up by hyphens or become “widows” and “orphans.” Widows occur when a word hangs on a separate line with a gap in spacing to the rest of the text. An orphan occurs when a paragraph is separated from the rest of the text and is “orphaned” at the bottom of the page or column.
Components of Typeface
When it comes to typeface, there are several components of it that should be paid attention to when choosing and arranging it.
The baseline is the line where the letters sit. The cap height is the distance from the baseline to the top of a capital letter. This comes in handy when aligning type. The X-height is situated between the baseline and cap height. It’s the height of the lowercase letter.
The bowl is the curved part of the character that encloses the circular or curved part of letters like ‘d’, ‘b’, and ‘o’. After bowls, you have the serif, which is little projections that finish a stroke in a letter. Think about the little “feet” mentioned above. Finally, the defender is the longest point in a letter that ends below the baseline.
Serif fonts are fonts that have little feet. This font is easier to read in long, printed works, which is why it is often used in novels. Common serif fonts include Times New Roman, Georgia, and Garamond. These fonts are easier to read because the letters are quite distinct.
Sans Serif Font
Sans means without in French. Sans serif means without serifs. You’ll notice these feet do not have the little feet as serif fonts do. Arial and Verdana are common sans serif fonts. These fonts are often used in web documents and on blogs because they read well on low screen resolutions and appear more modern.
Goth and Old English are common blackletter fonts. These fonts have thick, thin strokes and were used in Gutenberg’s Bible. They were common before 1500, making them typically used today in documents that are meant to appear historic.
These letters are incredibly difficult to read, which is why when used today it’s typically only in headers or logos. Think of the New York Time’s logo. This likely isn’t something that will be used in website design for medical professionals.
These fonts are based on handwriting. Think of the beautiful lettering that goes on a wedding invitation. But they’re so much more than that. There are also casual scripts that mimic an individual’s daily handwriting, as opposed to penmanship.
Good vs Bad Typography
Ultimately, implementing the appropriate typography for your medical marketing strategy comes down to selecting one that will meet the needs of your audience and communicate your brand essence.
Test various fonts to see what works best on your website’s desktop version and on mobile devices. Consider how the font will appear when printed on business cards, as keeping a consistent use of typography and font will help establish your brand.
Consider the efficacy of the typography. You might find one that seems super cool and edgy, but find that it suits neither your website nor your brand essence. Using it could make your website look silly and even turn people away.
Moving to Best Choices of Typography
In the medical and other healthcare professions, the selection of typestyle includes those listed below. These are the most recommended by Stanford University for creative, effective marketing and communication as well as branding.
Source Sans Pro, a sans serif type that works well with most medical website text. It is easy on the eyes especially for lengthy medical and technical white papers.
Crimson Text, stylish type for printed medical communications.
Fjord One, consider using this font as an accent, helping to grab a website visitors’ attention quickly.
Other Issues to Consider
Keep in mind websites for all types of businesses including medical website are always under guidelines of browser capabilities. It is important to note that browsers do change font-weights according to individual algorithms.
A “font-weight” is simply the thickness of the type. The thickness or weight of the type style chosen depends on use of italics, bold and other character enhancements.
It’s All About the Look of Website Typography
While it is certainly true medical website content is the central focus of why information is presented, it is also true that typographical enhancements retain or lose interest if the type is not legible.
When individuals search for medical websites, the first glance at the site needs to be stylish and informative. It’s been determined that websites have less than three seconds to grab attention.
Differences in Type for Dentists, Doctors and Other Medical Professionals
The choice of type depends mainly on the particular medical practice. Surgeons, medical specialists and primary care physicians may prefer a more formal type for their websites. Dentists may choose type that is less formal when their practices are composed of adults and children.
The most important factor in the choice of type is how the target market reacts to it. A medical target market is composed of prospective clientele, medical vendors and competitors. These variations affect the overall impact of the type chosen.
For example, vendors seeking potential doctors and dentists to market supplies and goods may not want to wade through website content with a sans serif type used throughout the content. This is when splitting up type may be advantageous.
Site headlines can be serif type while content beneath the headline is presented in sans serif type. This is also true for medical sites who are marketing specific services or goods. There is more flexibility for professionals who market medical or surgical equipment on websites that can afford the use of up to three type styles. Be aware that the type chosen will be viewed and judged by competitors.
New vs. Existing Medical Sites
Another issue for consideration is whether the practice is new or is an existing one with a long standing clientele. First impressions are lasting impressions even for startup medical, dental and medical professionals.
Choose content that maintains focus on professionalism and type that offers a fresh image for the announcement of a new medical practice. Existing medical sites may want to use two sets of type for additions to their services to ensure the information is not ignored.
Keep type density at practical levels to avoid tedium. That’s the fastest way to divert site visitors’ attention.
Medical Professionals Websites
Many medical professionals write for medical associations or for others in their specific local groups via a website. The typography chosen for this needs to be in formal type. However, this is where the type chosen should collaborate with typographical tools like leading, kerning and tracking for the best medical and technical presentations.
Learn Typography Early
Learning the variances in typography styles early on is a valuable tool in understanding medical and dental website design and effective website content.
It may be a good idea for the medical and dental students to present their student documentation in the suggested serif and sans serif type styles to learn how to create stylish medical and dental documents and text that looks professional.
Demographics Affect Type Style
Where a medical professional, medical or dental practice is located also affects type styles. There are several serif and sans serif types from which to choose. Study those most often seen on medical sites in the local area to arrive at the preferred type used.
Formal types are used most often in larger urban areas to attract a more diverse group of prospective patients and medical clients. In rural areas, less formal types suit the needs of this demographic region.
What Message Does Type Choice Send?
The sole purpose of learning the tools of typography, studying the target market and demographics is to send the message that looks professional and type that offers a professional “tone.”
This points out the compatibility between type chosen and links to branding. Once a medical brand is announced with the proper type choice, it should have the ability to be retained in memory. There is a definite connection between font chosen and increasing online visibility.
At the end of the day, good use of quality typography can help your medical website engage its visitors, guide them, and ultimately help convert them into new patients. When in doubt, ask an expert, there’s so many fonts and typefaces to choose, and the experts at O360 know how to help you select them.