The Ultimate List of Web-Safe HTML and CSS Fonts
Updated: Jun 18, 2022
Believe it or not, your website’s font is part of your marketing message.
More specifically, it plays a crucial role in creating a unique brand identity. You likely notice particular “standard” fonts associated with established brands, especially in their logos. For instance, Facebook, Amazon, Disney, and Microsoft all have distinct fonts that set them apart. Most are custom-made and variations of existing fonts.
Not long ago, the same monotonous fonts appeared on almost every website, regardless of industry or brand. It was difficult to implement unique fonts because there was no way to display them properly on all browsers.
Nowadays, however, there’s a greater variety of web-safe CSS and HTML fonts that you can use to aid your website development process and better brand your digital marketing efforts.
Previously, if a user didn't have your particular website’s font installed on their computer, their browser would display a generic font as a backup, such as Times New Roman.
As a result, marketers didn’t know how their web pages were being displayed to the end user. If a page’s content doesn’t perfectly adapt to a different font, the user can run into functionality and design issues.
Web-safe fonts solve this problem and are now a standard in web design. By choosing a web-safe font, you can rest assured your text will always appear as intended. The best part is that you don't have to just stick with serif fonts. Let's take a look at the different types.
What are the different types of web fonts?
For web-safe fonts, you can use serif, sans-serif, monospace, cursive, fantasy, and MS fonts.
Serif fonts contain serifs, small decorative strokes that protrude from the main body of the letter. Serif fonts are easier to read in physical, printed formats, as the serifs lead the viewer’s eyes from character to character. Times New Roman is a serif font.
Sans-serif fonts do not have serifs. Sans-serif fonts are easier to read on screens, so they are therefore much more common in website copy. Arial is a sans-serif font.
Monospace refers to fonts that have equal spacing between characters. Courier is a monospace font.
Cursive refers to fonts that resemble handwriting. Brush Script MT is a cursive font.
Fantasy refers to highly stylized decorative fonts. Luminari is a fantasy font.
MS stands for Microsoft and indicates that the font was created for digital devices by Microsoft. Trebuchet MS is an example.
With so many advances in web design, it’s easy to wonder whether web-safe fonts are obsolete. After all, we now have AI bots and a dedicated framework for designing mobile pages. Surely a technology exists that makes all fonts web-safe.
But this is simply not true. Let’s discuss why web-safe fonts are still important today.
Are web-safe fonts still necessary? Yes, web-safe fonts are still necessary. They’re the only fonts that are guaranteed to show in all browsers regardless of a user’s geographical location, internet bandwidth, browser settings, or device.
Web-safe fonts are the easiest way to guarantee a consistent user experience in case your preferred font doesn’t load correctly. You might have chosen the most beautiful font from Google Fonts, but if you don’t pair it with a web-safe font in your CSS font stack, you risk rendering text that looks off-brand on your site.
Imagine, for example, the HubSpot site rendering in Times New Roman — all because we didn’t establish our preferred web-safe font on the backend. Time New Roman is perfectly web safe — the problem is that it’s defaulted to by the browser, so our website ends up looking inconsistent and, well, a little off-brand.
Here are a few of the reasons why you’ll want to use web-safe fonts.
1. Your HTML text will stay consistent.
If you use a sans-serif font on your website, you’ll want to choose a web-safe sans-serif font as a backup. To take the above example, HubSpot’s site would look strange with a serif font, because we only use sans-serif typefaces on our pages. If you came across the HubSpot site in Verdana, however, the change won’t be as jarring.
It’s also important to give the browser a few font backups for unique characters. Consider the registered symbol (®). If your preferred font doesn’t support this symbol, but the next one in your font stack does, you can ensure that the symbol looks similar to the original font.
2. The browser will have several options before it defaults to its preferred web font.
All browsers have a default font they’ll render if, for some reason, they can’t load your website’s font file. You can delay this process by using a series of web-safe fonts in your font stack.
This will allow your font to “degrade gracefully.” Instead of switching from Playfair Display straight to Times New Roman, the font can go from Playfair Display to Didot, a much closer alternative. If Didot isn’t available, then the font can switch to Georgia, and last, to the default serif font the browser uses.
3. You’ll have several backups if you’re using a self-hosted font.
Nowadays, you can easily connect to Google Fonts and use a font that’s accepted by most browsers. You’ll rarely find a page written in Open Sans that doesn’t render in Open Sans. But if you uploaded a custom font to your site’s hosted files, compatibility isn’t as guaranteed. Your web server might go down momentarily, or the end user’s browser might not support that specific font.
You can rest easy if you add web-safe fonts to your font stack. This will ensure that your font degrades in steps rather than defaulting immediately to the browser’s established web-safe font.