Best Font for Online Reading: No Single Answer (2023)

A large new study of the best fonts for online reading is ultimately disappointing, because it doesn’t answer the most burning question: what font should you use for your website? But it still provides many intriguing findings, including the striking conclusion that there is no single answer to this question.

The Research Study

Shaun Wallace from Adobe and colleagues conducted a reading-speed study with 352 participants. The participants were asked to read several short passages of text; each passage had 300–500 words (by comparison, this article contains 2,623 words and the average web page contains 593 words). The test stimuli were at an approximate 8th grade reading level, which matches our recommendation for web content targeted at a broad consumer audience. (This article is written at a 12th grade reading level, but it targets professionals, not the general public.)

The texts were shown in 16 different fonts, with appropriate experimental controls for things like order effects.

Fonts included classic typefaces (Times, Helvetica, Garamond), typefaces designed for computer use (Calibri, Arial), and typefaces specifically designed for legibility (Noto Sans, Montserrat); no “wild” fonts (think Best Font for Online Reading: No Single Answer (1)) were included. However, each user only read texts in 5 of these fonts during the main reading-effectiveness test.

While navigating the Internet, users mostly scan pages for useful information, as opposed to reading all the text word-for-word. Thus, in real life, users only read 28% of the words on a webpage, or about 166 words. In contrast, study participants did read the entire texts in a linear fashion. (Complete reading was encouraged by asking users a few comprehension questions after they had finished reading each passage.)

This difference in reading behavior between web users and study participants does raise the question whether findings would be different under more realistic web-usage conditions. Even so, I still think the findings about the relationship between fonts and reading speed are of interest.

The authors note that there are 3 types of reading, of which they only studied one:

  1. Glanceable reading of a few words, as found in notifications and on tiny screens like smartwatches
  2. “Interlude” reading: reading of short passages of prose like the ones used in the study and found on most websites
  3. Long-form reading, for example reading of a book

The three main metrics collected were:

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  • Subjective user preference: which font did each person like the best?
  • Reading speed in words per minute (WPM)
  • Comprehension score: percent of questions answered correctly after the user finished reading a passage

However, this last metric was not very interesting, as the score was very close to 90% in all conditions. High comprehension indicates that (a) the content was easy relative to the users’ reading skills, and (b) people read the texts carefully. The first of these findings is not always true for web content, and the second is rarely true for web users.

Fonts Matter

On average, any given participant read 35% faster in his or her fastest font (314 WPM) compared to that same person’s slowest font (232 WPM, on average). This is a huge difference, considering that each user was only measured on 5 fonts. If reading speeds had been measured for all 16 fonts for each user, the difference between the fastest and slowest font would have been likely even bigger. And it would have been bigger again in a hypothetical (but impossible) experiment that measured people reading texts in all available fonts with sufficient legibility to be considered for practical business design. (Impossible, because there are probably thousands of good fonts, not even considering the even larger number of bad fonts which we sadly do see employed on websites from time to time.)

Best Font for Online Reading: No Single Answer (2)

Main Finding: No Best Font for All Users

With this big difference in reading speeds within users, you would expect that the study would have identified a font with the highest overall score. Well, it did: Garamond had the highest average reading speed at 312 WPM; it was 6% better than #2 (Oswald, at 295 WPM) and 23% better than the worst font of the 16 tested (Open Sans, at 254 WPM).

But Garamond was only best on average. It wasn’t best for all users. There were substantial individual differences.

Many users were faster readers with another font than Garamond, which means that they would be penalized by a design that used Garamond. The authors also computed a speed-rank score that shows how often a font was the fastest of those 5 fonts that a given user saw. Garamond only achieved a speed rank of 48%, which means that (slightly) more than half of the time another font would be better for a specific user. (And an even bigger percentage would likely have been better off with a different font than Garamond if all 16 fonts had been available as alternatives.)

The highest speed rank was achieved by Franklin Gothic, at 59%. Note that this still means that 41% of users would be better served by a different font out of the 5 they used. Interestingly, Franklin Gothic only scored an average reading speed of 271 WPM, which is much lower than Garamond’s reading speed of 312 WPM. In other words, Franklin Gothic is better for more people than Garamond, but the mean speed is higher for Garamond. How to explain this discrepancy? It's possible that Franklin Gothic is a good font for poor readers, whereas Garamond is good for strong readers. If true, the strongest readers can really speed ahead with Garamond and drive up its overall mean. (Remember that the mean of 2 and 4 is 3, whereas the mean of 2 and 10 is 6. Thus, if the high end can be increased in a dataset, then the mean will increase even if the low end stays the same.)

Whatever the true cause, the distinction between Franklin Gothic and Garamond is simply more proof of the overall finding that different fonts are best for different people, with reading skills being a possible differentiator impacting font choice.

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Can’t Ask Users

If different fonts are best for different people, you might imagine that the solution to the fonts problem would be a preference setting to allow each user to select the font that’s best for them.

This solution will not work, for two reasons. First, previous research on user-interface customization has found that most users don’t use preference settings, but simply make do with the default.

Second, and worse, users don’t know what’s best for them, so they can’t choose the best font, even if they were given the option to customize their fonts. In this study, participants read 14% faster in their fastest font (314 WPM, on average) compared to their most preferred font (275 WPM, on average). Again, each individual user in this study was only measured on 5 fonts, whereas most systems have many more. For example, the word processor I am using to write this article has more than 200 fonts installed (of which, admittedly, several are script fonts that no sane person would pick for reading). More fonts equal more chance of picking wrong and a larger difference in reading speed between the optimal font and the user’s choice.

Age Differences

Users’ age had a strong impact on their reading speed, which dropped by 1.5 WPM for each year of age. It’s important to note that this is not a matter of young users vs. senior citizens. The average age of the study participants was 33 years, with a spread from 18 to 71 years, but a small bias in favor of younger users.

Reading speed drops during middle age. A 20-year age difference (for example, from 20 to 40, or from 30 to 50 years old) will, on average, correspond to reading 30 WPM slower, meaning that a 50-year old user will need about 11% more time than a 30-year old user to read the same text. (Computed relative to the overall average reading speed in the study, which was 276 WPM.)

By comparison, in an earlier study, we found that users between the ages of 25 and 60 declined in performance by 0.8% per year, in terms of the time needed to perform tasks while using websites. A performance drop of 0.8% per year corresponds to users spending 16% more time to perform tasks on websites if they are 20 years older.

How to explain that the performance decline caused by 20 years of aging was 16% in the website-usage study but only 11% in the online-reading study? One explanation is simply the passage of time: there were about 14 years between the two studies, with the bigger difference measured in 2007 and the smaller difference measured in 2021. During these 14 years, older people have become more tech-savvy and possibly also have better health due to advances in medical care. Today’s 40-year-olds probably exercise more and pop more prescription pills, which may make their brains decay a little slower than was the case for the previous generation.

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Another explanation (which I personally believe to be more plausible) is that two different things were measured. Yes, performing tasks on websites involves reading, but it also requires many more advanced skills, such as navigation, search, and the ability to judge and make decisions based what’s being read. It is likely that the degradation of the human brain during middle age is more damaging for people’s ability to do complicated things than for the performance of relatively simple functions such as reading.

A second interesting age-related finding from the new study is that different fonts performed differently for young and old readers. The authors set their dividing line between young and old at 35 years, which is a lower number than I usually employ, but possibly quite realistic given the age-related performance deterioration they measured.

3 fonts were actually better for older users than for younger users: Garamond, Montserrat, and Poynter Gothic. The remaining 13 fonts were better for younger users than for older users, which is to be expected, given that younger users generally performed better in the study.

The takeaway is that, if your designers are younger than 35 years but many of your users are older than 35, then you can’t expect that the fonts that are the best for the designers will also be best for the users.

Also, the differences in reading speed between the different fonts weren’t very big for the young users. Sure, some fonts were better, but they weren’t much better. On the other hand, there were dramatic differences between the fastest font for older users (Garamond) and their slowest font (Open Sans). In other words, picking the wrong font penalizes older users more than young ones. The same takeaway applies: if the designers are young, they may not experience much reading-speed differences between different fonts, leading them to make design decisions based on mainly aesthetic criteria and assuming legibility to be less important. But those fonts that seem pretty much equally legible to young people can have vastly different legibility for older people. (And remember that “old” was defined as 35 years or above in this study.)

A final point about age differences in reading: the study didn’t include many true seniors, topping out at 71 years for its oldest participant. In our first user research with senior citizens in 2002, we defined “seniors” as users aged 65 and above. But in our latest research with seniors (2019), we discovered that people in their late 60s use computers pretty much the same as people in their 50s. Thus, they don’t need special usability guidelines, and we don’t consider them as seniors anymore. Now, our definition of seniors is users aged 70 years and above. This group does need special usability guidelines, and even though we haven’t specifically measured their reading speed, it is likely that the decline in reading speed will progress at a faster pace in these higher age groups. Since the new research found differences in the best fonts for people younger and older than 35 years, it’s very likely that further research might find even more differences in the fonts that would be best for users aged 70 and above.

A Possible Solution for Font Optimization

Purely as speculation, I tried to invent a system to give individual users the best font to maximize their reading speed.

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It should be possible to use personalization to present individual users with text in the font that’s best for them. A browser or e-reader would initially present text in a randomly chosen font. After enough time has passed to generate a reliable estimate of the user’s reading speed with this font, the system would change to another font and use it until there’s a reliable estimate of that font’s reading speed. Repeat this process many times, and eventually the specific user’s reading speed will have been measured for several fonts. Whatever one wins can then be used going forward.

Since we know that there are age-related changes in font performance, we should repeat the font-optimization process every few years, to identify a new font that would be better for the now-older user.

It would be unpopular to present text in ever changing fonts during the long calibration procedure, and then spring a new font on the user a few years later. (Certainly, this is a violation of usability heuristic #4 which calls for consistency.) I am not seriously suggesting this solution, and it would probably be better as an April Fools’ Day story. But since I have demonstrated that it’s possible to automate the selection of an individually optimized font, maybe there will one day be a practical system for doing so.


The new study is ultimately disappointing because it doesn’t provide us with actionable design guidelines. But it offers substantial new insights into online reading that will make us think harder about how to design text-heavy web pages:

  • Even among fonts with good legibility, reading speeds differ substantially, so it really matters to get the font right.
  • Unfortunately, no single font is best for all users.
  • We can’t ask users to choose their own font, because people won’t pick the font that’s best for them.
  • Reading speed declines substantially with age, even among middle-aged users. We’ve always recommended to cut the words for digital content, but now we should recommend cutting 11% more words if large parts of your audience are 50 years or older.
  • There are age-related differences in what fonts are best, with people younger than 35 (most designers) being different than people older than 35 (most users). Oh, well, you are not the user, as we always say.

Clearly, as scientists like to say, more research is needed. Given the findings in the new study, the answer will not be simple, but we can still hold out a little hope that it might prove possible to derive a formula that could predict the best font for a given user, given multiple criteria (not just one criterion, sadly). We also need an experimental protocol that more closely mirrors the typical scanning behavior of web users.

Finally, even though this study didn’t include any bad fonts, there are some low-legibility ones out there. Do stay away from those, because they can reduce reading speeds by much more than the numbers discussed here. And even with good fonts, avoid tiny text and low contrast, both of which do much damage.


Shaun Wallace, Zoya Bylinskii, Jonathan Dobres, Bernard Kerr, Sam Berlow, Rick Treitman, Nirmal Kumawat, Kathleen Arpin, Dave B. Miller, Jeff Huang, and Ben D. Sawyer (2022): Towards Individuated Reading Experiences: Different Fonts Increase Reading Speed for Different Individuals. ACM Transactions on Computer–Human Interaction, Volume 29, Issue 4, Article No. 38.

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Which font is best for online reading? ›

Verdana sans-serif is another go-to font for web design because of its readability. Like Georgia, it was created specifically for computer screens. It's a solid choice if you have large blocks of text, as experts generally agree that sans-serif fonts are easier to read on the web.

What is the easiest font to read for visually impaired? ›

The most accessible fonts are Tahoma, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, and Times New Roman. Slab serif fonts including Arvo, Museo Slab, and Rockwell are also considered to be accessible. These font types are mostly used in headings rather than the body text.

What font is best for reading comprehension? ›

Therefore, it can be concluded that Times New Roman is, overall, a better font for increased reading comprehension and memory in extended text.

Is Arial or Times New Roman easier to read? ›

For online reading, sans-serif fonts (e.g. Arial, Verdana) are generally considered more legible than serif fonts (Times New Roman), narrow fonts or decorative fonts.

What is the fastest reading font? ›

Multiple studies, like the one conducted by Sarah Morrison and Jan Noyes of the University of Bristol, have found that Times New Roman is the best typeface for reading any document. Readers speed through material faster thanks to its simple letters.

What is the sharpest font? ›

Some of the best fonts
  • Didot.
  • Bodoni.
  • Garamond.
  • Futura.
  • Helvetica.
  • Mrs Eaves.
  • Baskerville.
  • Akzidenz-Grotesk.

Is Arial or Calibri more accessible? ›

The same applies to handwriting style fonts, which are very popular in a lot of communications. One of the most accessible and most widely available fonts is Arial; others include Calibri, Century Gothic, Helvetica, Tahoma and Verdana.

What is the font size for low vision? ›

Use a Roman type standard serif or sans-serif font, size 16- or 18-point. These fonts tend to have more space between letters (i.e., non-condensed). Print text using the highest contrast possible. Light or white letters printed on a dark background are more readable than dark letters on a white background.

How do you make text more readable for people with low vision? ›

Avoid stylised typefaces, which may look attractive but they can be illegible to the visually impaired. Use bold or semi-bold style, not light fonts. Avoid blocks of capital letters, underlined or italicised text, as they are all harder to read. A couple of words in capitals is fine.

What color font is easiest to read? ›

Their general findings were: 1) Black and white were consistently rated as the most readable; 2) Color combinations that included black were rated more readable than those that did not; and 3) Darker text on lighter backgrounds were rated higher than lighter text on darker backgrounds.

What font is best for memory? ›

According to some studies, hard-to-read fonts such as Bodoni, Comic Sans, Haettenschweiler, or Monotype Corsiva are better for retaining information compared to fonts like Arial or Times New Roman.

Is bigger font better for eyes? ›

The larger font size is easier to read and produces far less eye strain.

Should I use Calibri or Times New Roman? ›

Both Calibri and Times New Roman are good fonts for a resume, but I would choose Calibri over Times New Roman. While Times New Roman is a solid, readable font, it is not as aesthetically pleasing (if you ask me). It's also a bit outdated and overused.

Why do people still use Times New Roman? ›

Times Roman is the granddaddy of print fonts and therefore the most familiar font in academia and bureaucracy. The most important element of having a standard is that it allows them to grade papers the number of pages or by weight, ceteris paribus.

Why do people use Arial? ›

Arial grew in popularity both because of its selection as a Microsoft core font and its design as a sans serif. It was, quite simply, the most accessible sans serif font available to most people with computers, and sans serif fonts were growing in popularity with the increase in computer usage.

What font size is most readable? ›

Choose a font that's at least 16 pixels, or 12 points. If many of your users are older adults, consider using an even larger font size—19 pixels or 14 points. A small font size is more difficult to read, especially for users with limited literacy skills and older adults.

Is calibri easy read? ›

Calibri is a default Windows font. Its clean look makes it comfortable to read, and suitable for many scenarios. If you are unsure of which font to choose, although not an innovative choice, Calibri is a safe option. Microsoft Windows is the most common OS on the PC market.

Does font size affect reading speed? ›

Conclusion: This study shows that line width and typeface have little influence on reading speed in people with mild to moderate sight problems. Increasing the minimum recommended print size from 10 points to 14 or 16 points would significantly increase the proportion of the population able to read fluently.

What's the most professional font? ›

Best Font for Resume in 2022:
  • Calibri. Modern sans-serif font with a clean cut. ...
  • Cambria. Serif font with a classic feel. ...
  • Helvetica. Sans-serif font highly esteemed among designers. ...
  • Georgia. Serif font with a formal look. ...
  • Verdana. Sans-serif font with a spacious design. ...
  • Garamond. ...
  • Trebuchet MS. ...
  • Lato.

What font is most commonly used? ›

1. Helvetica. Helvetica remains the world's most popular font. It's best known for signage and when designing business forms, like invoices or receipts.

What makes a font look professional? ›

Recommended serif fonts include Cambria, Georgia, and Times New Roman. Sans serif fonts don't have small strokes attached to their letters, giving them a cleaner and more modern style. Some recommended sans serif fonts include Arial, Calibri, and Verdana.

What is the coolest looking font? ›

7 best web design fonts
  1. Open Sans. Open Sans is a highly readable, neutral, and minimalist font to choose from. ...
  2. Montserrat. Another one of the best web fonts to choose from is Montserrat. ...
  3. Roboto. Roboto is a sans-serif typeface that is geometric but also has open curves. ...
  4. Playfair Display. ...
  5. Lato. ...
  6. Merriweather. ...
  7. Helvetica.
30 Sept 2021

What is the best font for Web pages? ›

Lato is a good font for websites because it's so readable, and comes with plenty of different styles. Merriweather is extremely popular for online use, because it was designed to be read on screens. Alegreya has a more traditional feel, with links to literature and printed text – perfect for text-heavy sites.

Is Arial font professional? ›

By contrast, Arial lacks serifs, ergo it is called sans serif. The lines in Arial are cleaner and straighter, with no tails. Both fonts are deemed as professional.

Why is sans serif easier reading? ›

Sans is a French word meaning "without". Thus, a sans serif is a typeface that has no traces or lines extending from the edges of letters and alphabets. This way, there are no curls, and the sans serif letters appear simple and rounded. The Sans font is clean and the best font for reading on screen.

Is Times New Roman a good font? ›

It's highly legible at all practical point sizes. Generally it has a complete set of standard glyphs. It usually comes in two weights, both with true italics. It's on the narrow side, so you can typically fit more copy in a given space than with some other “body text” fonts.

Is sans serif better for accessibility? ›

And there are studies that support sans serif typefaces as superior for people living with certain disabilities (such as certain visual challenges and those who learn differently; Russell-Minda et al., 2007).

How do screen readers read all caps? ›

Screen readers may interpret capital letters as acronyms, and read them out letter-by-letter. Some developers brush this off as par for the course of using a screen reader. They say that it's a minor annoyance people who use screen readers are used to, just as we're used to our GPS mispronouncing street names.

Is there a font for dyslexia? ›

Though Helvetica, Courier, Arial, and Verdana have been scientifically shown to improve readability among people with dyslexia, there are many options in this category. Look for fonts that are sans-serif and Roman style, and then check to see if they're available in monospaced versions.

Is cursive font accessible? ›

If a font is decorative with adornments, it becomes difficult to read. All fonts with decorations at the end of a stroke may be harder to read for some users. Cursive or handwriting style fonts also make the text inaccessible, and hence they are not the best fonts to use for a website.

Why are sans serif fonts more accessible? ›

Sans-serif fonts are recommended because they have a slightly higher readability than serif fonts. Their appearance is more block-like and less decorative than serif fonts.

How do I make text more accessible? ›

8. Accessible fonts and styles
  1. Minimum font size 12 (bigger for presentations)
  2. Use non-serif fonts (such as Arial or Helvetica)
  3. Avoid underlining text unless it's a link.
  4. Avoid italics or all capitals (they're harder to read if you have dyslexia)
  5. Use bold sparingly: it slows down reading and can look 'shouty'
13 Nov 2021

What is the best font for people with macular degeneration? ›

People with macular degeneration (MD) experience difficulties in reading due to central-field loss. Two new fonts, Eido and Maxular Rx, have been designed specifically for individuals with MD. We have compared reading performance of these new fonts with three mainstream fonts (Times-Roman, Courier, and Helvetica).

What size font is considered large print? ›

The standard font size for large print is 18 point, although you might need larger (or smaller) print, depending on your needs and type of vision loss.

What is the sharpest font? ›

Some of the best fonts
  • Didot.
  • Bodoni.
  • Garamond.
  • Futura.
  • Helvetica.
  • Mrs Eaves.
  • Baskerville.
  • Akzidenz-Grotesk.

What is the best font for notes? ›

Guidelines for choosing fonts are: Use Sans serif for web and serif for print. Use Monospace for typewriter and code.
Serif fonts
  • Garamond.
  • Georgia.
  • MS Serif (Windows) or New York (Mac)
  • Palatino Linotype or Book Antiqua (Windows) or Palatino (Mac)
  • Times.
  • Times New Roman.

What fonts are dyslexia friendly? ›

Readable fonts

Use sans serif fonts, such as Arial and Comic Sans, as letters can appear less crowded. Alternatives include Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Trebuchet, Calibri, Open Sans. Font size should be 12-14 point or equivalent (e.g. 1-1.2em / 16-19 px). Some dyslexic readers may request a larger font.

What is Garamond font used for? ›

Garamond is a group of many serif typefaces, named for sixteenth-century Parisian engraver Claude Garamond, generally spelled as Garamont in his lifetime. Garamond-style typefaces are popular and particularly often used for book printing and body text.

What is the most readable font size? ›

Choose a font that's at least 16 pixels, or 12 points. If many of your users are older adults, consider using an even larger font size—19 pixels or 14 points. A small font size is more difficult to read, especially for users with limited literacy skills and older adults.

What font is used in most books? ›

In 1931, the London Times hired typographers to design a highly readable, compact font. Times Roman is now the most widely used font. It's chicken-and-egg: Times Roman is easy to read, so it's widely used; and it's widely used, so it's easy to read.

What is the coolest looking font? ›

7 best web design fonts
  1. Open Sans. Open Sans is a highly readable, neutral, and minimalist font to choose from. ...
  2. Montserrat. Another one of the best web fonts to choose from is Montserrat. ...
  3. Roboto. Roboto is a sans-serif typeface that is geometric but also has open curves. ...
  4. Playfair Display. ...
  5. Lato. ...
  6. Merriweather. ...
  7. Helvetica.
30 Sept 2021

Is Arial easier to read than Calibri? ›

There is an argument that serif fonts are more distinctive than sans serif fonts (without strokes, eg Arial, Calibri), and are therefore easier to read. However, there are plenty more studies that show there is no difference between them in terms of legibility.

What font is best for memory? ›

According to some studies, hard-to-read fonts such as Bodoni, Comic Sans, Haettenschweiler, or Monotype Corsiva are better for retaining information compared to fonts like Arial or Times New Roman.

What font is good for ADHD? ›

Mono-spaced fonts, such as Consolas and Courier New, are good for neurodiverse readers since they present fewer opportunities for confusion between letters.

What fonts should dyslexics avoid? ›

Serif fonts

They may look decorative, but they can cause reading problems for dyslexic users. Serifs tend to obscure the shapes of letters, making the letters run together [1]. But a sans-serif font would allow dyslexic users to see the shapes of letters clearer.

What does dyslexic font look like? ›

Dyslexia fonts use thicker lines in parts of letters. The letters are slanted a bit. And letters that have sticks and tails (b, d, and p) vary in length. Some people with dyslexia like this and find it helpful.

What font is Harry Potter written in? ›

Adobe Garamond in the Harry Potter books — not a character but a font.

What font are the Harry Potter books printed in? ›

Because of it's superior legibility, economic ink usage and classic forms, Garamond is a favorite for books, manuals or any printed material that features large bodies of small type. It has been used in all American editions of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, the Hunger Games trilogy and the Shiver Trilogy.


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