What font works best?

Baskerville Wins, but Size Matters

Ever wonder what’s the best font to use for your website, emails, eBooks, sponsor proposals, and presentations?

Technically, you “should test,” but thanks to neuroscientists and the New York Times, you’ve got some good research to help you choose the right font from the get-go.

Baskerville Wins

In December, Errol Morris of The New York Times conducted an experiment on the publication’s unsuspecting online readers. With the help of Cornell psychologist David Dunning, he ran a story with a quiz in five different typefaces: Baskerville, Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans, and Trebuchet. He got 40,000 responses. Baskerville won over all the others, with Georgia a close second. Dunning’s observation:

“… Baskerville’s weighted advantage wasn’t huge — just 1.5 percent. “That advantage may seem small,” Dunning told the Times, “but if that was a bump up in sales figures, many online companies would kill for it …”

Georgia beats Times New Roman

In an experiment by then-university student Phil Renaud back in 2006, he wrote 52 essays for his classes, earning an A- overall.

Here’s the thing: Towards the end of his last semester, Renaud’s average essay score began climbing. “I haven’t drastically changed the amount of effort I’m putting into my writing,” he wrote. “I’m probably even spending less time with them now than I did earlier in my studies.”

What he did change, however, was his essay font — three times, in fact. Renaud went back and looked at his essay scores and the different typefaces he’d used when he submitted his work. His papers were handed to his professors in three different fonts: Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Georgia. Here’s what he tallied:

What matters more? Size

Derek Helpern says, “Size 14 is the NEW size 12.” Better yet “Size 16 is the NEW size 12.” He’s not talking dress sizes. Size 12 font works really well on printed paper so we’ve stuck with that size for online reading where it’s too small.

Even for young eyes, 12 pt font is hard to read. Go look at your site right now. What’s your font size? Are you losing readers or conversions by using too small of a font? Test both 14 and 16 point to see if it affects your click-throughs. I’m willing to bet it does.

Draw your own conclusions, but I’ll be delivering all my strategic plans in Baskerville font from now on.


Sources and references on effective fonts: