Typography is so ubiquitous and all encompassing that it can be easily overlooked. This is the reason why it is so important. “Fonts are not simply the shape of letters for creating words; they are letterforms with carefully designed shapes and subtle differences that relate to each other and that combine to make a pure visual statement.” (Ressler, 1997).
Typography plays a dual role as both verbal and visual communication. Subconsciously we scan a page looking for visual cues, which indicate the format of a document. We survey the page for graphic patterns and look for headings and sub-headings, which give structure. According to Lynch & Horton (1999), “Good typography establishes a visual hierarchy for rendering prose on the page by providing visual punctuation and graphic accents that help readers understand relations between prose and pictures, headlines and subordinate blocks of text.”
The basic rules that govern typography are similar for both print and web but there are some differences. Type on a computer screen is displayed at a much lower resolution than in print; typically 72 dots per inch (dpi) compared to 1200 dpi for magazines and books (Lynch & Horton, 1999). The physical dimensions of monitors are also different, web pages having the ability to scroll. The big difference regards variability. When a magazine for example goes to print, the editor knows that every reader will see identical copies, a website creator can rarely be so certain.
Understanding typography on the web requires an understanding of the fundamentals of HTML, the capabilities of different browsers and the technologies that drive the processes. For some time now the options for handling type on web pages has been restricted by the limitations of the markup language. The introduction of cascading style sheets however, set to change that. (DiNucci et al, 1998).