To web font or to not web font?

I’ve come across a number of conversations about not using web fonts and sticking with system fonts.

Does anyone have thoughts on the issue?

Web fonts can obviously make your site look better, but can add overhead and require gdpr. What’s the general trend these days?

You should always host web fonts on your own server.


Always. Always. Always use local woff2 fonts stored on your server. Also subset them to reduce size further.


Absolutely. GDPR or not, hosting your own fonts makes the most sense. The less dependencies your website has, the better. Besides, the overhead caused by hosting fonts is quite minimal.

I am eliminating all stacks that call for google webfonts and do not provide a choice of self-hosting.

But do you not then also need to buy a licence for the font?

Depends. All google fonts are available for free.

Get your subsetted woff2 fonts here

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So are all Google fonts for example open source and does their use by hosting them on your server require attribution?

You can use them without attribution. Though you could always credit the designer in let’s say an about page.

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My projects are text heavy, really text heavy, for this reason primarily I have chosen to use system fonts. Those system fonts are designed to be used on the screens my readers are used to.

Speed is the second reason. There is basically zero overhead except for one reference in the CSS and then size and weight variations as needed. If I want a bit of creativity I can add a Google font headline style. This can create a personalized website and brand, especially when mixed with colors, lines and shapes.

However, depending on your audience, font selection and design may be of more value and a better fit. As mentioned, use subsets and generally keep it simple. You can vary the sizes, use all caps or small caps without adding overhead.

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There are plenty of free fonts with open licences available, including many variable fonts. The great advantage of these is that you only need 2 fonts (regular and italic) as all the weights and small caps are built in. I am using one at the moment in which the regular comes in at 91.5 kbytes and the italic 86.2kbytes in woff2 format. The only disadvantage is that you’ll probably have to convert the fonts to woff2 yourself using Google’s woff2 library. Most variable fonts are only supplied as OTF or TTF and the online conversion tools usually make a mess of variable fonts.