Could Comic Sans Be the Key to Mastering Search Engine Optimization AND Website User Experience?

April 1, 2016 | 7 min read
By Jenny Knizner

To dominate SERPs and provide your user with the best experience possible you need a well-designed, search engine optimized website.

The problem we often encounter is that beautiful websites typically lack on-page optimization and are heavy under the hood with the use of web fonts or custom type kits. Conversely, pages that are well optimized often compromise on design and user experience.

This paradox leaves many web design and SEO agencies at odds, questioning how to achieve both a well-optimized, beautiful, engaging and welcoming website at the same time.

The Answer: Obviously, Comic Sans.

You heard me right. As the director of marketing and creative services at a marketing agency and a graduate who holds a BFA in Graphic Design, I believe that Comic Sans is the answer. You may be surprised, shocked or even appalled by this revelation, but please hear me out: The data is there, and it definitely supports the use of Comic Sans for mastering user experience and improving search ranking.

As Familiar as Walking into Cheers, Everybody Knows Your Name

Comic Sans is a polarizing font — you either love it or hate it, but everyone knows it. In an interview with Comic Sans creator, Vincent Connare, he explains how this font has gained such popularity.

“Back in 1994, Microsoft was making software in anticipation of the day when there would be a computer in every office and in every home. Today, in fact, people have computers in their offices and homes, and in their pockets and purses. Regular people who are not typographers or graphic designers choose Comic Sans because they like it, it’s as simple as that. Comic Sans isn’t complicated, it isn’t sophisticated, it isn’t the same old text typeface like in a newspaper. It’s just fun — and that’s why people like it.”

How Comic Sans Got Its Bad Rep

It is true that the font is “fun,” so folks use it when they want to relay friendly messages. But this amiability also leads to overuse, and especially overuse out of context. Comic Sans is not inherently bad, but it does get a bad rap when it is used in every church newsletter and business memo.

tumblr_m135odVzpV1rs2h1co1_500

At least the lion was probably amused? View more great/terrible uses of Comic Sans.

During an interview with famous typographic designer, Mark Boulton, he explains “People berate it for no good reason. It’s a font that’s been overused, rather than a font that’s inherently bad. It’s just been used in the wrong context so many times, because the barrier to entry is so low—no typographic schooling is needed to be able to choose it from a drop-down.”

Just Like Your Next Match Date, Look for a Personality Match, Not Just a Pretty Face

When making typographic choices, appropriate context is determined not only by choosing the right typeface or font for your brand, but also for your message.

It is not news that typefaces have distinct personalities. But until recently, the implications have been poorly understood. The latest evidence presented in an article by Co.Design suggests that typefaces convey their own meanings and elicit their own emotions independent of the words they spell out. From a design standpoint, that means matching typeface personality with message personality becomes far more important and potentially far more challenging.

“Academics are doing a better job of understanding how typeface choice affects the emotional responses we can expect from the viewer or reader,” says Nicole Amare, a communications scholar at the University of South Alabama. “And we are getting better at understanding how very specific emotional responses are linked to the forms of the letters and words on the page or screen.”

Amare conducted a simple study, changing part of a website that she helps manage to Comic Sans, to observe reader response. To no surprise, she received emails requesting the type be changed back immediately because it was unprofessional. Interestingly, once she switched the text to Times New Roman, other users told her they kind of missed the “fun” type and now found the site “somehow duller, boring, and more mundane.”

tumblr_lwai3aaaaG1r7viaco1_500 copy

The Comic Sans Project. Making the brands way more fun since 2012.

So if the shoes fit, wear them proudly.

For a Consistent User Experience, Choose Web-Safe Fonts

As you may know, there have always been limitations in designing SEO-friendly websites and using fonts. If you’re not familiar with the back-end process, when developing a website, the designer specifies which font the web browser should pull for a particular website, page, paragraph, heading or even word. Although there is a lot of flexibility with the fonts you can use, the user or website visitor must have that particular font loaded on their computer for the page to show as intended. If the user does not have that font, then it goes to the next font in line, such as any sans-serif font. This is called a font stack. The browser starts at the top and works its way down until it knows what to load.

font-family: "Comic Sans MS", "Comic Sans", cursive;

Example Font Stack Code

To ensure a website appears consistent in styling and design, a designer is best served by choosing a font stack consisting of web-safe fonts. These web-safe fonts ensure compatibility across all browsers and operating systems because they are loaded on to every machine by default. As a bonus, these are fonts that everyone is already familiar with, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, and Comic Sans, just to name a few. You can find a full list of web-safe fonts here.

With Great Choice Comes Great Responsibility

With the launch of Google Fonts in 2011, web designers rejoiced as a world of typographic options had just opened to us. No longer did we feel bound to just the standard system (web-safe) fonts, we had the power of the web propelling our styling. However, one hugely important detail halts the more responsible designers — utilizing these fonts will impact your page load time. If you have read any of our other recent blog posts, you will already know that page speed is officially a ranking indicator for Google. Using too many font styles or even adding a single Google Font can slow down your web page.

With so many other factor impacting your page load time, carefully weigh the benefits and detriments of choosing a web font or a standard web-safe font. If you’re looking for character and personality, Comic Sans might just be the safer choice.

Time Tested and Approved by Google Authority

When Google announced it would be rolling out Comic Sans as their default font across all Google product starting April 4, 2011, it was no laughing matter. We all know and appreciate Google’s thorough commitment to user testing (no one else tests 41 different blues to choose their link color).

comic-sans-example-600x349

Google SERP

It was no surprise that after vigorous user testing of, again, 41 different fonts, investigating how each affected user experience, they discovered one font consistently outperformed all others when it came to user satisfaction, level of engagement, understanding web content, productivity, click-through rates and conversion rates: Comic Sans.

As you can see in Google Trends, that this created quite the internet buzz in 2011. Despite having its true breakthrough moment way back then, Comic Sans is coming back around. The keyword “google comic sans” is having a breakout moment thanks to Google’s new logo. So is “helvetica comic sans.” For those of you familiar with the “halo effect,” its increased pairing with “Google” and time-honored and trustworthy “Helvetica” just might lend renewed respect to its fun cousin, Comic Sans.

And if Google authority isn’t enough to convince you, Comic Sans has also been a valuable asset for the Pope as well as announcements for ground-breaking scientific discoveries, such as CERN’s Higgs Boson announcement.

Improved Information Recall

According to a study published in Cognition, researchers found that by utilizing Comic Sans for course materials, students retained more information and improved recollection, performing 18.8% better in relevant class assessments. It is more difficult to skim this particular font, forcing the reader to slow down and truly read and absorb the information presented. This is also evident by the Google eye tracking results presented in the below heatmap.

eyetracking-600x229

Heatmap of Google SERP Comic Sans Testing

SEO Expert Approved

As stated by Google representatives, “Whether it’s search results, text ads, emails, or documents, our research has consistently shown that the most effective way to achieve user happiness and higher conversion rates is to use the Comic Sans font.”

Would you like to add some of your favorite experiences with the world’s most beloved font? Comment below or find me @JennyKnizner.


PageSpeed Insights Help Part 2: User Experience
9 Ways You Are Missing Out by Not Having a Google Analytics Account
Subscribe to the Digital Marketing Tip!
Get the latest insights and time-tested wisdom from veterans of the digital marketing industry.

Could Comic Sans Be the Key to Mastering Search Engine Optimization AND Website User Experience?

April 1, 2016 | 7 min read
By Jenny Knizner

To dominate SERPs and provide your user with the best experience possible you need a well-designed, search engine optimized website.

The problem we often encounter is that beautiful websites typically lack on-page optimization and are heavy under the hood with the use of web fonts or custom type kits. Conversely, pages that are well optimized often compromise on design and user experience.

This paradox leaves many web design and SEO agencies at odds, questioning how to achieve both a well-optimized, beautiful, engaging and welcoming website at the same time.

The Answer: Obviously, Comic Sans.

You heard me right. As the director of marketing and creative services at a marketing agency and a graduate who holds a BFA in Graphic Design, I believe that Comic Sans is the answer. You may be surprised, shocked or even appalled by this revelation, but please hear me out: The data is there, and it definitely supports the use of Comic Sans for mastering user experience and improving search ranking.

As Familiar as Walking into Cheers, Everybody Knows Your Name

Comic Sans is a polarizing font — you either love it or hate it, but everyone knows it. In an interview with Comic Sans creator, Vincent Connare, he explains how this font has gained such popularity.

“Back in 1994, Microsoft was making software in anticipation of the day when there would be a computer in every office and in every home. Today, in fact, people have computers in their offices and homes, and in their pockets and purses. Regular people who are not typographers or graphic designers choose Comic Sans because they like it, it’s as simple as that. Comic Sans isn’t complicated, it isn’t sophisticated, it isn’t the same old text typeface like in a newspaper. It’s just fun — and that’s why people like it.”

How Comic Sans Got Its Bad Rep

It is true that the font is “fun,” so folks use it when they want to relay friendly messages. But this amiability also leads to overuse, and especially overuse out of context. Comic Sans is not inherently bad, but it does get a bad rap when it is used in every church newsletter and business memo.

tumblr_m135odVzpV1rs2h1co1_500

At least the lion was probably amused? View more great/terrible uses of Comic Sans.

During an interview with famous typographic designer, Mark Boulton, he explains “People berate it for no good reason. It’s a font that’s been overused, rather than a font that’s inherently bad. It’s just been used in the wrong context so many times, because the barrier to entry is so low—no typographic schooling is needed to be able to choose it from a drop-down.”

Just Like Your Next Match Date, Look for a Personality Match, Not Just a Pretty Face

When making typographic choices, appropriate context is determined not only by choosing the right typeface or font for your brand, but also for your message.

It is not news that typefaces have distinct personalities. But until recently, the implications have been poorly understood. The latest evidence presented in an article by Co.Design suggests that typefaces convey their own meanings and elicit their own emotions independent of the words they spell out. From a design standpoint, that means matching typeface personality with message personality becomes far more important and potentially far more challenging.

“Academics are doing a better job of understanding how typeface choice affects the emotional responses we can expect from the viewer or reader,” says Nicole Amare, a communications scholar at the University of South Alabama. “And we are getting better at understanding how very specific emotional responses are linked to the forms of the letters and words on the page or screen.”

Amare conducted a simple study, changing part of a website that she helps manage to Comic Sans, to observe reader response. To no surprise, she received emails requesting the type be changed back immediately because it was unprofessional. Interestingly, once she switched the text to Times New Roman, other users told her they kind of missed the “fun” type and now found the site “somehow duller, boring, and more mundane.”

tumblr_lwai3aaaaG1r7viaco1_500 copy

The Comic Sans Project. Making the brands way more fun since 2012.

So if the shoes fit, wear them proudly.

For a Consistent User Experience, Choose Web-Safe Fonts

As you may know, there have always been limitations in designing SEO-friendly websites and using fonts. If you’re not familiar with the back-end process, when developing a website, the designer specifies which font the web browser should pull for a particular website, page, paragraph, heading or even word. Although there is a lot of flexibility with the fonts you can use, the user or website visitor must have that particular font loaded on their computer for the page to show as intended. If the user does not have that font, then it goes to the next font in line, such as any sans-serif font. This is called a font stack. The browser starts at the top and works its way down until it knows what to load.

font-family: "Comic Sans MS", "Comic Sans", cursive;

Example Font Stack Code

To ensure a website appears consistent in styling and design, a designer is best served by choosing a font stack consisting of web-safe fonts. These web-safe fonts ensure compatibility across all browsers and operating systems because they are loaded on to every machine by default. As a bonus, these are fonts that everyone is already familiar with, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, and Comic Sans, just to name a few. You can find a full list of web-safe fonts here.

With Great Choice Comes Great Responsibility

With the launch of Google Fonts in 2011, web designers rejoiced as a world of typographic options had just opened to us. No longer did we feel bound to just the standard system (web-safe) fonts, we had the power of the web propelling our styling. However, one hugely important detail halts the more responsible designers — utilizing these fonts will impact your page load time. If you have read any of our other recent blog posts, you will already know that page speed is officially a ranking indicator for Google. Using too many font styles or even adding a single Google Font can slow down your web page.

With so many other factor impacting your page load time, carefully weigh the benefits and detriments of choosing a web font or a standard web-safe font. If you’re looking for character and personality, Comic Sans might just be the safer choice.

Time Tested and Approved by Google Authority

When Google announced it would be rolling out Comic Sans as their default font across all Google product starting April 4, 2011, it was no laughing matter. We all know and appreciate Google’s thorough commitment to user testing (no one else tests 41 different blues to choose their link color).

comic-sans-example-600x349

Google SERP

It was no surprise that after vigorous user testing of, again, 41 different fonts, investigating how each affected user experience, they discovered one font consistently outperformed all others when it came to user satisfaction, level of engagement, understanding web content, productivity, click-through rates and conversion rates: Comic Sans.

As you can see in Google Trends, that this created quite the internet buzz in 2011. Despite having its true breakthrough moment way back then, Comic Sans is coming back around. The keyword “google comic sans” is having a breakout moment thanks to Google’s new logo. So is “helvetica comic sans.” For those of you familiar with the “halo effect,” its increased pairing with “Google” and time-honored and trustworthy “Helvetica” just might lend renewed respect to its fun cousin, Comic Sans.

And if Google authority isn’t enough to convince you, Comic Sans has also been a valuable asset for the Pope as well as announcements for ground-breaking scientific discoveries, such as CERN’s Higgs Boson announcement.

Improved Information Recall

According to a study published in Cognition, researchers found that by utilizing Comic Sans for course materials, students retained more information and improved recollection, performing 18.8% better in relevant class assessments. It is more difficult to skim this particular font, forcing the reader to slow down and truly read and absorb the information presented. This is also evident by the Google eye tracking results presented in the below heatmap.

eyetracking-600x229

Heatmap of Google SERP Comic Sans Testing

SEO Expert Approved

As stated by Google representatives, “Whether it’s search results, text ads, emails, or documents, our research has consistently shown that the most effective way to achieve user happiness and higher conversion rates is to use the Comic Sans font.”

Would you like to add some of your favorite experiences with the world’s most beloved font? Comment below or find me @JennyKnizner.

Share This Post
PREVIOUS POST

PageSpeed Insights Help Part 2: User Experience
NEXT POST

9 Ways You Are Missing Out by Not Having a Google Analytics Account
Subscribe to the Digital Marketing Tip!
Get the latest insights and time-tested wisdom from veterans of the digital marketing industry.