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Bearing similarities to humanist sans-serif typefaces such as Frutiger, Verdana was designed to be readable at small sizes on a computer screen. The lack of serifs, large x-height (heights of lower-case letters, as scaled to the letter x being exactly equal to one), wide proportions, loose letter-spacing, large counters (spaces inside partially enclosed portions of letters or symbols such as c, s, or curved quotation marks), and emphasized distinctions between similarly-shaped characters are chosen to increase legibility.
0.7em is about as small as take either. Anything lower becomes very hard to read.
For titling I tend to use image replacement or swap my declaration to favor a wider selection.
[edited by: limbo at 8:51 pm (utc) on Feb. 3, 2009]
In all honesty, I never use serif fonts for web pages. I find that it looks outdated and makes websites look cheap and unprofessional but thats just my opinion.
I am in my 50's but have pretty good eye sight for my age.
Why do they do this ?
I like Arial best. Verdana has that ocr machine look to me.
I use both serif and san-serif fonts, but I do look at the items listed above before deciding which to use!
as for size, i use fixed sizes in the head area where it usually breaks the design if the text is too large - personally i use pixels and have 14px as the fixed minimum where it must be fixed.
otherwise i use percentages and always check/design my commercial sites using IE with text size set to Largest ... this after my mum and others telling me they struggle to read a lot of websites because the font size is too small for them.
(my visitors tend to be middle aged +)
I am so tired of cruising the two-oh-net and seeing all that low contrast tiny font that I make it a special point that my pages all be actually readable.
As far as fonts go, a couple of the newer Vista type fonts are actually about the best for web viewing, but you have to provide the usual backup fonts such as Verdana in your CSS files as not everyone has them.
Calibri, Cambria, Candara and Corbel
from my own opionion i feel that with a good quality monitor, especially at bigger screen resolutions these fonts are better than the older windows and mac equivalents ....
however the flip side is that with low end LCD's they look a lot worse, i'd be very careful about using them on a website.
[for those without vista, you can get all the so called Vista 'c' series fonts by downloading and installing the MS Powerpoint Viewer [microsoft.com]]
Also, a few really old browsers or OS, such as pre-winXP might have trouble with Cleartype fonts on LCD screens. Not sure if this will work with the ancient windows versions [microsoft.com...]
[edited by: Wlauzon at 5:43 pm (utc) on Feb. 6, 2009]