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SaidAchmiz comments on LW 2.0 Strategic Overview - Less Wrong

47 Post author: Habryka 15 September 2017 03:00AM

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Comment author: SaidAchmiz 16 September 2017 11:43:06PM *  6 points [-]

As with many such things, there are standard, canonical solutions to your concerns.

In this case, the answer is "select pairs/sets of fonts that are specifically designed to have the same width in both the serif and the sans variants". There are many such "font superfamilies". If you'd like, I can draw up a list of recommendations. (It would be helpful if you could let me know your constraints w.r.t. licensing and budget.)

Theme variants do not have to be comprehensive redesigns. It is eminently possible to design a set themes that will not lead to the content being perceived very differently depending on the active theme.


Overall, my hypothesis is that Alicorn might not dislike serif-fonts in general, but might be unhappy about our specific choice of serif fonts, which is indeed very serify.

I suspect the distinction you're looking for, here, is between transitional serifs (of which Charter, the Medium font, is one, although it's also got slab-serif elements) and the quite different old-style serifs (of which ET Book, the current LW 2.0 font, is one). (There are also other differences, orthogonal to that distinction—such as ET Book's considerably smaller x-height—which also affect readability.)

Alicorn, if you're reading this, I wonder what your reaction is to the font used on this website:


P.P.S.: It is also possible that the off-black text color is negatively impacting readability! (Especially since it can interact in a somewhat unfortunate manner with certain text rendering engines.)

Alicorn, what OS and browser are you viewing the LW 2.0 site on?

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2017 01:19:57AM 3 points [-]

I do not like the readthesequences font. It feels like I'm back in grad school and also reading is suddenly harder.

I'm on a Mac 'fox.

Comment author: SaidAchmiz 17 September 2017 02:37:50AM *  3 points [-]

Ok, thanks!

FYI, your assessment is in the extreme minority; most people who have seen that site have responded very positively to the font choice (and the typography in general). This suggests that your preferences are unusual, in this sphere.

I say this, not to suggest that your preference / reaction is somehow "wrong" (that would be silly!), but a) to point out the the danger in generalizing from one's own example (typical mind blah blah), and b) to underscore the importance of user choice and customization options!

rest of this response is not specifically for Alicon but is re: this whole comment thread

This is still a gold standard of UX design: sane defaults plus good[1] customizability.

[1] "Good" here means:

  • comprehensive
  • intuitive
  • non-overwhelming (i.e. layered)

Note, these are ideals, not basic requirements; every step we take toward the ideal is a good step. So by no means should you (the designer/developer) ever feel like "comprehensive customizability is an unreachable goal; there's no reason to bother, since Doing It Right™ is too much effort"! So in this case, just offering a couple of themes, which are basic variations on each other (different-but-matching font choices, a different color scheme), is already a great thing and will greatly improve the user experience.