As web developers, our job is to turn beautiful paintings into beautiful machines. But effective as we are, and talented as many of the designers are with whom we work, communication breakdowns and knowledge gaps remain that make our work harder, and our output poorer then we’d like. One of these breakdowns/knowledge gaps is the lack of understanding between designers and developers of the web-availability of fonts commonly used in design.
Many times I’ve been handed a design and asked to create a perfect, SEO-friendly (which means using text for text, not images for text) facsimile, only to see a Photoshop file full of rich, vibrant, and proprietary Adobe fonts. In this situation, unless there are either project funds allocated for font licenses or a willingness on my part to break the law (by finding and using an illegal copy of the font), I know that I’m going to disappoint both the designer and the client. This should stop for two reasons: it’s not my fault, and I get the blame. Clients buy the paintings, not the machines, and the difference between the two is my responsibility.
There’s probably not much in the previous paragraph to surprise you. The reality of the problem is obvious and the workarounds are well-known. Less obvious is the reason for the font knowledge gap. It’s surprisingly common, and it’s as much our fault (developers) as it is theirs (designers). Fortunately, the solution is easy. And since we programmers think we’re the smart ones, it’s easy enough to accept responsibility for the task… communicate with your designers!!
Ideally you’re working close enough with your designer to tell him before the design phase begins which fonts are available. More likely you’ll be handed a complete design and asked to do your modular part of the process. But even in this situation, don’t be afraid to inform. Tell the designer/project manager/whomever exactly what to expect for their fonts. If they’re not willing to make changes, at least your part in producing a superlative/lackluster website will be better understood. Don’t take the fall for an uninformed design process! Instead, communicate… and make the beautiful design the beautiful machine.
To build the websites our clients and designers expect we must communicate with the designer and explain which fonts will be available to us in the next phase. Together we can build a better web… And be heroes, both!