When you send plain text emails, your message is displayed in the default font of the recipient’s email service. It’s not pretty, but it’s consistent.
When you move to HTML email, however, you can display your message in a variety of different fonts. This lets you present your message in a way that reinforces your brand.
There are plenty of fonts you can choose from for your HTML emails, so how do you select the best font for email marketing?
You can select nearly any font you want for your HTML emails, but recipients will only see those fonts available from their email clients and providers. The fonts you choose, then, need to be compatible with the fonts used by Gmail, Outlook, and other popular email clients. These are called web safe fonts, and, when you use them, you’re assured that your HTML emails will look the way you designed them when they’re received by subscribers.
There’s actually a very large number of web safe fonts. You can choose from serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, Garamond, and Georgia. There are also several web safe sans-serif fonts like Arial, Arial Black, Geneva, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Tahoma, and Verdana. The monospace Courier New is a web safe font, as is the casual Comic Sans MS.
Not all of these fonts are ideal for email use. Some are more readable and have more impact than others.
While you should choose the font that most closely matches your branding, some experts agree on fonts purely based on readability.
For headers and short blocks of text, Verdana is a great choice. This is a sans-serif font that’s airier than the more traditional Arial or Helvetica, and displays clearer than those mentioned on most computer and device screens.
This is an example of Verdana.
For longer blocks of text, Georgia is a good choice. Serif fonts are typically easier to read in longer paragraphs (hence why most newspapers and magazines have serif fonts for their body copy). Georgia is a serif font that both is easy to read and displays well.
How to measure the impact of different fonts
When you’re designing your marketing emails, you need to make sure that your text is readable across a variety of devices. Display your email on both small and large smartphones, tablets, and computer screens of various sizes. Send the message through all the major email clients and services.
See for yourself that everything displays correctly. Is the text large enough to read? Are the fonts legible? Do headers pop? If something’s off, change either the font or (more likely) the font size until it works.
You can also test different combinations of fonts and font sizes. A/B test two emails with varying fonts and sizes and see which performs better.
Does it really matter?
The fonts you use for your email marketing are actually very important.
First, the fonts you choose affect the success of your mailings. Some fonts just work better than others—they have more impact and generate a higher response rate.
Second, fonts determine how legible your text is. If a font is too small or hard to read, recipients won’t read to the end.
Third, fonts help you establish your brand. Choose fonts that best match the typography you use in all your other branding. (And, if one of your brand fonts isn’t web safe, use images instead of text to display that font.)
Choosing the right fonts will elevate your campaigns. Tying in branding and legibility, you can ensure readers will return wanting more from each send by making sure every piece of the design is on point.
For more information, check out our companion guide: All You Need to Know About Web Fonts in Email.