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I am building a webpage for a company that is present in many countries, thats why there will be individual websites for every country. While having no problems with the technical aspects, I am a bit unsure how to approach a specific problem.

The brand's styleguide is written rather open and general, they haven't specified any special font. All they care about is a consistent look across the web.

Because of that, I would love to use the font they have been using for years in all their campaigns and on the web, but unfortunately there are some missing glyphs that are quite essential. There is no complete version of that font – it was designed that way, I can't do anything about it.

While doing some research, I only found a surprisingly small number of fonts that have a nice amount of widths and styles and that have enough glyphs to support any (western) language. So basically I am a bit stuck right now – do you think its ok for the user experience to use different but similar fonts for different languages?

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2  
Why not to hire a designer to create a missing glyphs? –  m0nhawk Nov 30 '13 at 12:18
    
If your client has specifically requested a consistent presence, which you indicated that they have, and has gone so far as to create a specific font to use, you will want to ask this question to them. They might care more than the average user, and if it makes them happy to spend more money expanding the font, so be it. –  Yamikuronue Dec 3 '13 at 17:31

5 Answers 5

People in general are inattentive to what fonts brands use. And remember that for years all we had when we were building web site was just a few web fonts to choose from and all we could do was to choose the most similar one.

So, I would just choose a similar font and make sure that the rest of the site follows the brand guidelines. Perhaps there is one or two brand elements such as colors, images or tone of voice that you could emphazise as a compensation?

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Actually people are attentive to fonts. Some fonts are tightly bond with brands. In Germany I could name Deutsche Bahn, Mercedes-Benz & Commerzbank as brands whose fonts are quickly recognizable even if the brand's name is not present. –  Pavlo Dyban Dec 9 '13 at 14:54
    
Are you talking about the fonts in the logo? There is of course exceptions to the rule but in general people can't see (or care) the difference between Times New Roman or Georgia for example. –  Tony Bolero Dec 9 '13 at 16:19

Most users will not read pages in different language versions, so they won’t even notice. If they do, they might ask “why”, but this does seem to be important, especially if the languages use different writing systems.

If there are just a few missing glyphs, suggest that the company contact the font vendor and ask them to add the glyphs to the fonts. It shouldn’t be a big issue if the missing glyphs are just some Latin letters with diacritic marks, as it seems (though I’m reading between the lines).

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Each user is not likely to use the system in more than one market (lang-country). Instead of focusing on uniformity across the web, focus on uniformity across the market. (Uniformity across the web is great, but small changes for markets are acceptable, and sometimes lead to a better experience for the user.)

Specific to fonts, there may be fonts that are ideal for one language and not for another (perhaps for reasons such as line thickness and readability). It's okay to use a different font in one market than another, as long as you are consistent within each market.

As a side, but related note to your point:

All they care about is a consistent look across the web.

It is important to learn about each market you expand into, and adapt for that market. For example, if your logo is primarily red, you might adjust for a region like South Africa, which relates red to mourning. Or, if in a landing page or promotional item you have a picture of a person who is professionally dressed, but does not have the very top button fastened on their button up shirt, this could be very offensive in some countries, and you might need to change the picture.

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ok for the user experience to use different but similar fonts for different languages?

Without a doubt it's ok. Suppose 90% of your audience uses the English version (a very modest estimate I'd wager). You want to optimize the experience for that audience (because it's by far the larger audience, not because they prefer English), so using the established brand typeface goes towards that. But you also don't want to ignore the non-English readers, a more internationally considered typeface is needed for that.

I don't think extending a weakly internationalized typeface to support this is the right plan. It's certainly possible, but unless you can get a real typeface designer with good understanding of internationalization, I think it's unlikely that would serve your non-English audience as well as an existing, proven, well internationalized typeface.

And there are other issues with creating a new typeface (which in effect is the result of extending an existing typeface). The original typeface might exist users computers, but the new one won't, so it will have to be downloaded, and there's a performance hit to that. And ensuring a new typeface works well on a variety of devices is so simple matter. All in all, you're much safer using a proven internationalized typeface than trying to make your own.

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I would use the same typeface for all language versions. As a user, prefer consistency from an aesthetic view with the exception being headings versus paragraphs.

If the original and translations are appearing together, then I would make the translated version larger because presumably it has more importance for the user.

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