Why NOT use Italic Font?
OK, ok, you can use it, but only if you don’t care if the words convert. Think about that for a second: italics don’t convert, so don’t use them. Want proof? Goody! Cause I have some…
BONUS: you get the warm, comfy feeling of knowing that giant brands make the same mistakes that you do. Sublesson: never quit; keep going, make mistakes and measure what worked and what didn’t. Subsublesson: don’t get cute at the expense of your core message (read my blog post “When Clever Defeats Clarity”). Also, don’t use “Subsublesson”; it’s stupid.
So who’s the giant brand? Dos Equis. Overview: they’re trying to get you to go to a page about Masquerade, and then to enter a contest. Value the offer however you want, what I’m addressing today is the viability of using italic font to get people to do what you want them to do (hint: it doesn’t work).
Italic Font Fail Example
Take a close look at the photos I’ve attached. These are obviously from my TV, and (not to brag) it’s large; 60″ 1080p, and widely regarded as one of the clearest pictures in TV at the time of its release. This matters only because of the point I’m trying to make about font. You can’t blame the TV in this case. It also points to the painful (for this advertiser) fact that many people have smaller TVs, which makes things worse.
So why not use italic font? It’s harder to read. Folks like Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist will tell you that difficult to read font means that readers will interpret you and your brand as difficult to deal with, even subconsciously.
Now, as you look at these images, keep in mind that this font was displayed for less than 2 seconds. Oddly enough, that’s not too far from the amount of time most internet marketing experts in Austin believe that you have to move people along on your website before they bounce out to another option. I’m not saying it’s connected, because it’s not; just that it’s curious.
Since it’s 2 seconds, try to count that and actually take in what you’re looking at. Remember too, the viewer does not have the benefit of knowing that they need to focus on this. The image was simply dumped on them, shown for about 1.8 seconds, and gone.
All that said, try this: Look away, look at the image, count 1…2 and look away. Two questions: 1. Could you actually read it? 2. Could you process what they wanted you to do? This is the experience of the viewer, which is a great habit to get into; viewing from your visitors’ viewpoint. Turns out, not surprisingly, the page they want you to go to is a poorly executed contest signup page, but that’s not the point. The point is that you’re never going to go there anyway, because you couldn’t read the words. It’s safe to assume that they, like most people, used italics for the presumable visual appeal, but don’t be deceived; there is no payoff. You lose more than you gain.
Who is your customer and what do you want them to do?
Use clear, clean font when writing your content and you’ll win every time. Learn and understand your audience, and figure out what fonts they respond to best.