I have two separate but related needs.
First, the website. It is almost mostly forms (data entry) and tables. For many of the tables, I need a narrow or condensed font. I’m currently using OpenSans and OpenSansCondensed, both at 9pt. It seems to work ok, but would there be something better?
Second, reports. These are tabular reports. Some description, but mostly dates, numbers, money, etc. Produced in PDF. Currently using Helvetica for most things. 9pt for column headers and report text, and several different sizes for page headers. Some reports need more room per line, so on those I’m using Arial Narrow. These work ok, and using Helvetica keeps the PDF smaller. But a little more pizzaz would be nice.
Currenly I can only use free fonts, but will be able to purchase fonts later, if necessary. So free and paid suggestions both welcome.
I’ll try to be more specific. The project is an accounting system. The website is used for transaction entry, maintenance, and data display.
Imagine a page for adding a record that has 30 fields, on a laptop or tablet screen, where scrolling is frowned upon. Or showing a table of transactions including an ID, description, customer number, cost, sale price, applied discount, P&L, sale date, and a few other fields. That’s why the font size is often 9pts and the table needs a narrow font. Many things on the website are very high-density. So the web font needs to be as readable as possible in 9pt and narrow/condensed.
The reports are in the same situation. Many of them use a 9pt font with portrait orientation. Some have multiple lines (up to 5) for each detail entry. Narrow fonts are used only when necessary. For example, if a report needs just a little too much width to get everything to fit on a single line, it will use a narrow font so everything will fit on one line, rather than have two half-full lines, and using over two times as many pages.
I’ve spent hours looking at fonts, but there are so many, and after a while they all look the same, and the all look equally ugly 😉 So I’ve come here for help to find the best (or at least a good) looking font at small point sizes and narrow.
Does that help? Feel free to ask questions if something isn’t clear enough.
I think you can give your website a unique thumbprint by using more than one typeface. Typically, I like the aesthetics of a distinct typeface for headings and another for paragraph text.
Since you mentioned you’re looking for free fonts, I’m sure you already know about Google Web Fonts. What you may not know is that they have a page of suggested font pairings with the exact setup I just suggested in mind!
For example: Open Sans Pairings
Checking out the different pairings for each font may help you pick one out.
If the reports and the website are both going to be produced for the same company, I would recommend mimicking the style of the site for the forms. It may not work for your case, but it is something to consider. A unique brand identity that is consistent across multiple mediums can give a company a very polished look!