Some studies have shown that serif versus sans-serif on a computer display is not what affects readability and the practical differences between the two font styles are largely inconclusive.

I observed some designers prefer to use serif fonts only for titles or important elements and that make me ask: The font style on a CTA affect user's decisions?

  • 3
    can you share the studies? – Midas Feb 7 '17 at 9:05
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    My only view on this is we seem to have got in the habit of using sans-serif when designing as it was more pleasing to the eye of the user. – DarrylGodden Feb 7 '17 at 11:58

According to this post by Kissmetrics:

As far as research goes, there is no ironclad answer as to whether serif or sans serif is better. But, as far as general consensus goes, when it comes to reading online, sans serif typefaces are easier to read because they are simple and legible even in small sizes. This means people can spend more time focusing on the message than deciphering the typeface. Sans serifs are recommended for the body of the copy and serifs for the title and subtitles.

We can arrive a conclusion that sans serif typefaces are better for CTA moments, where people need to spend more on focusing on the message (and in this case, the message that your CTA trigger needs to give).

  • So you think is better that users spend more time asking "I want to click this button, I want to buy the product?". I can't agree with your reason, sorry. – Madalina Taina Feb 7 '17 at 11:23
  • No in terms of spending time, what I want to say is that message is where users need to focus. Forget the concept of time since it can take like a half-second to take that decision... Just edited my reply – Joao Carvalho Feb 7 '17 at 11:55
  • Ok, now is better. – Madalina Taina Feb 8 '17 at 7:03

"Will serif or sans-serif fonts change the user decision/behavior on a call-to-action?"

The short answer is no. The serif may affect readability, and there is something to be said about aesthetics, but at the time of this post (2017) there is no conclusive evidence that a serif font influences user decisions.

The rule of thumb is that sans-serif is more readable for small text and digital reading (think eBook). Serif fonts can help readability in "real world" tangible books (rumor has it these still exist in buildings called libraries). Most Call-to-Actions are some form of the button or smaller element on the page and thus do not contain large text, therefore sans-serif is probably the way to go.

However, largely differing font families (whether serif or not) can create different impressions on the user. Imagine if Amazon changed its font sitewide to Lucinda Cursive or something radical -- at the aggregate level, analytics would quickly show that user behavior is affected.

Hope this helps to clarify.

I think you're talking about an article by Alex Poole. Anyhow, it basically says the same as you: in the battle of serif vs. sans-serif, there is not a decisive winner when it comes to legibility. They both have their pros and cons.

But size does matter in this case.
Sans-serif is better when using a small font-size, because serif fonts tend to "smear".
And sans-serif is also better in big font-size, think huge, like in advertisement billboards. Sans-serif is more legible from a distance.

So when your CTA button is small or huge, a sans-serif font would be the better choice from a usability perspective.

But other than that I think it's primarily an aesthetic choice. Does it fit the design?
We could say that when it doesn't fit the design, the design will look incoherent and that might affect the opinion of the visitor about the company causing them to abandon the site. They could be of opinion the company might invest as less thought and effort in everything they do as they did on the design of their website.

  • Interesting opinion. So you think for large buttons, sans-serif is better. What do you think a designer should choose if the website/ app use two font families and the buttons have small/ medium sizes? – Madalina Taina Feb 7 '17 at 12:07
  • Anyway, you say "Sans-serif is better when using a small font-size (...) And sans-serif is also better in big font-size". So when are ok serif fonts? In fact, I read sans-serif can be better for web and serif for prints, but my question was if the font style affects the user's decision. – Madalina Taina Feb 7 '17 at 12:10

I would avoid using serif for the call to actions unless you have a very good reason! Sans serif is easier to read, more modern. Serif is more likely to be used in a header, where it's larger text and ultimately more legible AND suits the design values of the brand (e.g. perhaps more traditional values)

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