Improve UX with universal fonts
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Published on August 5, 2014
With the important role that fonts play in user experience, it is surprising that a universal font that works across most languages, browsers, and operating systems doesn't yet exist. Google and Adobe are looking to change this as they are pushing forward with a method of creating a standardized font across different languages.This is needed because the typefaces available for most Windows, Mac, and tablet systems aren’t consistent, and don’t always meet the UX or business identity needs for all sites. Many UX designers turn to web fonts for an improved selection of fonts, but these primarily help users creating sites using Latin-based languages, such as English.
Google, with help from Adobe, is working on creating a font family that includes all languages of the world. A single font that covers every single written language on the planet. This resolves a problem that occurs when users that speak different languages share documents or webpages, yet they don’t have the same fonts available to them. When sharing documents, any missing fonts are displayed as small empty rectangles. Typography professionals call these small tiny rectangles Tofu, which appear whenever a typeface is requested but isn’t available. Google has called for a new universal, multi-language font family Noto – short for No Tofu. There are now 100 typefaces with 100,000 glyphs, or characters that are part of the Noto font family.
Up to this point, Unicode fonts provided a unique combination of numbers that represent every written language. Google is rolling out fonts that are consistent with the Unicode standard. The user experience for many who want to publish in their native language will likely be improved, as even small languages such as Inuktitut, which is the primary language of the Inuit people in Canada are incorporated. Some languages are also being included for their novelty more than their practicality, such as the Shavian Alphabet language, named after George Bernard Shaw, an Irish poet.
Although certain scripted languages are not yet supported by the Noto project, it is making considerable progress in creating an environment where missing fonts no longer bother designers and publishers. If successfully adopted, this may addresses a key concern addressed in the UX training courses, where participants consider type an important part of the overall user experience and design.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.