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31 Mar 2010

A solution to using custom fonts online

by Steve Coventry

I am sure many of you are aware of the limitations of using fonts on the internet. Traditionally websites have been forced to use a small selection of ‘web safe’ fonts which don’t exactly inspire. There have been many solutions to this problem, most of which have their own pitfalls whether it be due to accessibility issues, poor SEO, being a pain to update or all the above. The most popular solution is sIFR which is a type of flash replacement text. This works by dynamically replacing the required text elements with a flash object containing the text, because this text is now within flash it can be styled using any font. Also because this is done on the fly when the page is loaded it does not impact on search engine optimisation, neither does it affect accessibility because a ‘hidden’ copy of the original text is left in place for screen readers.

So you may be thinking that the problem has been solved? Well not exactly... Having used sIFR on a number of projects I have noticed many areas where it doesn’t play nicely and inadvertently breaks something or ends up looking wrong. And because this is supposed to be a ‘simple’ solution you can’t quite style the text how you would like in all situations.

So after becoming increasingly frustrated with sIFR and not being able to find a better alternative I decided to write my own which would do exactly what I wanted. So without any further delay I would like to introduce WWIFR (or Wickedweb Inline Flash Replacement, for the want of a better name) to the world... wide web. Actually this is not me introducing WWIFR at all, because without knowing it you have been seeing it all over this website.

The benefits of WWIFR over sIFR are many, but the biggest bonus is that it can be styled in more ways than you ever could with sIFR, and because I wrote it I can update it to accommodate any styling I desire.

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