Web Site Quality Indicators

One of the ongoing innovations in web design is support for higher quality and more variety in web fonts and better typography in general. Jason Santa Maria has recently published a book “On Web Typography” in the A Book Apart series on web design. One of the topics is using proper characters like smart quotes instead of the default straight quotes. This is part of a larger topic about how to judge web site quality (more on that coming in additional articles). This is a very large topic but let’s review a few quick examples that can be found from examining web site text.

Spelling Mistakes

The quickest indicator of lack of quality control on even the most stylish sites are spelling mistakes. This usually means the person didn’t read or at least didn’t sufficiently check their own writing and if it wasn’t worth it for them to review why should you?

Use of Smart Quotes and Other Special Characters

One quick way to see if your web site is of high quality is to check the quote and other special characters. Smart quotes show that the designer cares about typography and pays attention to details enough to use the proper characters.
example: “Smart quotes” "Dumb quotes".

Primes which are used to denote feet and inches as well as longitude and latitude co-ordinates are a different character than straight quotes.

Feet and inches
“He was 6′4″ and full of muscle”
Latitude and longitude 40° 44′ 54.3588″ N, 73° 59′ 8.3616″ W

You can see these character differences even more prominently displayed and the key shortcuts to enter the characters at Smart Quotes for Smart People.

For an overview and praise for Jason’s book you might like the article on Medium.


Many words in their proper form contain accents.

Example: The one I use the most often is Orléans, Ontario. Many fierce debates were held to decide that it was important to include the accent which in this case denotes the French heritage of where I live.


In addition to Jason’s book

• “On Web Typography” published by A Book Apart 2014

Robin P. Williams wrote a classic style manual for the Macintosh

• “The Mac is not a Typewriter” published by Peachpit Press in 2003.

Robin has also written a design book

• “The Non-Designer’s Design Book, 3rd edition”

A 4th edition is estimated to be released in December 2014.

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