Make WordPress Core

Opened 8 months ago

Last modified 5 months ago

#46370 new feature request

A proposal for creating an API to register and enqueue web fonts

Reported by: jonoaldersonwp Owned by:
Milestone: Awaiting Review Priority: normal
Severity: normal Version:
Component: General Keywords:
Focuses: performance Cc:
PR Number:

Description (last modified by westonruter)

The problem

Loading custom fonts in a sub-optimal manner can cause significant performance and privacy issues. Anecdotally, inefficient font loading is frequently one of the biggest performance bottlenecks in many WordPress themes/sites.

This is, in part, because there hasn’t been a ‘best practice’ approach; there’s no ‘standard’ way of adding a font to a theme, and ensuring that it’s loaded in a performance-friendly manner.

Loading resources from Google Fonts has been the generally-accepted workaround to this, but that’s come with privacy concerns, and, poor implementations (no DNS prefetching, multiple requests, loading unneeded localisations/weights, etc).

Even our own sites and setups (wordpress.org, the WordPress admin area, Gutenberg, and some of our core themes) fall afoul of these issues.

If we’re serious about WordPress becoming a fast platform, we can’t rely on theme developers to add and manage fonts without providing a framework to support them.

Why now?

It’s only recently that CSS and performance technologies/methodologies have matured sufficiently to define a ‘right way’ to load fonts.

In particular:

  • Best practices for defining and loading fonts via CSS are now well-established, stable, and see broad usage elsewhere.
  • The increasing adoption of of HTTP/2 means that localising assets can (in many cases) be faster than loading them from remote sources.

The vision

Theme developers shouldn’t have to manage their own font loading and optimisation. The registering and loading of fonts should be managed in the same way that we manage CSS and JavaScript - via abstraction, through an enqueue system.

Whilst fonts have more moving parts than script and style files, I believe that wp_enqueue_font() could become a robust, standardised way of adding custom fonts to themes without radical effort or change - with all of the advantages we’re used to from abstracting JS/CSS (conditional logic, dependency management, versioning/cache-busting, consolidation of duplicates, etc).

A move to an enqueue-based approach may also provide plugin developers with hooks to intercept the default behaviours, and to modify the output. E.g., to utilise the font loading API rather than outputting CSS. This provides a huge opportunity for caching and performance-optimising plugins to speed up WordPress sites/themes.

The ‘Web Fundamentals’ approach

The Web Fundamentals documentation provides an example of an optimal CSS structure for loading fonts. E.g.,

@font-face {
  font-family: 'Awesome Font';
  font-style: normal;
  font-weight: 400;
  src: local('Awesome Font'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-l.woff2') format('woff2'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-l.woff') format('woff'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-l.ttf') format('truetype'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-l.eot') format('embedded-opentype');
  unicode-range: U+000-5FF; /* Latin glyphs */

@font-face {
  font-family: 'Awesome Font';
  font-style: normal;
  font-weight: 700;
  src: local('Awesome Font'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-l-700.woff2') format('woff2'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-l-700.woff') format('woff'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-l-700.ttf') format('truetype'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-l-700.eot') format('embedded-opentype');
  unicode-range: U+000-5FF; /* Latin glyphs */

In this example, a single font (‘Awesome Font’) is being loaded, in two different weights (400 and 700). For each of those weights, multiple formats are provided, prioritised in such a way that considers and is optimized for browser support. The approach for different styles (e.g., italic), and all other variations, follow this pattern.

In addition to using an optimal CSS approach, the documentation recommends using a <link rel="preload"> directive (or equivalents JavaScript-based approaches). This prevents the browser from having to wait until the render tree is complete before downloading font resources.

Our aim is to enable all themes/plugins to achieve this approach and to output this code (the CSS, paired with a preload directive) without requiring developers to explicitly craft and maintain this code.

A spec

The process of enqueuing a font should allow a developer to specify the name of the font, and to provide an optional level of detail/control over specific aspects (versions, weights, file locations). Where details/specifics aren’t provided, sensible fallbacks and defaults should be assumed.

I suggest the following structure function definition:

 * Enqueue font.
 * @param string            $handle The name of the font.
 * @param string|array|bool $src    The source(s) of the font files.
 * @param array $params {
 *      Params.
 *      @type string      $style     The style of the font.
 *      @type int         $weight    The weight of the font.
 *      @type string      $display   Display/swap behaviour.
 *      @type string      $range     A unicode range value.
 *      @type string|bool $external  Externalise the CSS file/code.
 *      @type bool        $preload   Should the resource be preloaded.
 *      @type bool        $in_footer Output the CSS/file in the footer.
 * }
function wp_enqueue_font( $handle, $src = false, $params = array() ) {
        $params = wp_parse_args(
                        'style'     => 'normal',
                        'weight'    => 400,
                        'display'   => 'auto',
                        'range'     => false,
                        'external'  => false,
                        'preload'   => true,
                        'in_footer' => false,

        // ...

Note that the args after $src are in an associative array to avoid having to supply positional params with default values and to make it easier to easily identify the parameters. Something similar could be done for wp_register_script() and wp_register_style().

Starting from simplicity

A simple implementation of this, which omits much of the detail and utilises default behaviours, might look something like:

  'Awesome Font', 

In this example, we’ve only specified the bare minimum information required to enqueue a font - a name and a location. But there’s enough here that we can generate the following CSS:

@font-face {
  font-family: 'Awesome Font';
  font-style: normal;
  font-weight: 400;
  src: local('Awesome Font'),
       url('/fonts/awesome-font-400.woff2') format('woff2'),
  • NOTE: If no $src value is defined, only a local font should be referenced (via $handle).

Supporting font registration

As with scripts and styles, we should allow for registration and enqueuing as separate processes. I.e., wp_register_font should accept the same arguments as wp_enqueue_font, and then, wp_enqueue_font can simply reference a registered $handle.



Whilst our $src variable can accept a simple string, more advanced usage should specify multiple versions and their formats. That looks like this (maintaining the rest of our ‘simplest implementation’ approach):

  'Awesome Font', 
    'woff2'             => '/fonts/awesome-font-400.woff2',
    'woff'              => '/fonts/awesome-font-400.woff',
    'truetype'          => '/fonts/awesome-font-400.ttf',
    'embedded-opentype' => '/fonts/awesome-font-400.eot',
  • NOTE: If a type is invalid, the declaration should be ignored.
  • NOTE: Data URLs (e.g., data:application/font-woff2;charset=utf-8;base64[...]) may be provided instead of file paths.


When the $external flag is false (which is the default behaviour), the generated CSS should be output in the <head>, via wp_add_inline_style() (unless $in_footer is set to true, in which case, the code should be output in a generated <style> tag hooked into wp_footer).

When set to true, we should wrap wp_enqueue_style and call a procedurally generated CSS file containing the relevant CSS (with a filename of font-$handle-$style-$weight.css).

Alternatively, the value may be a string which represents a filepath, where the CSS ‘file’ should be accessible from (via a rewrite rule).

  • NOTE: When $external is true, we should check that the composite handle for the font can be converted to a unique stylesheet handle. If such a stylesheet handle already exists, we should de-enqueue the existing stylesheet and enqueue the new one.
  • NOTE: Default location of generated CSS file TBD.
  • NOTE: Invalid string values should fall back to the default behaviour.


When the $preload flag is true (which is the default behaviour), wp_resource_hints* should be filtered to add a <link rel="preload"> directive for the most modern format font file in the $src array (usually woff2).

If $external is set to true, the associated CSS file should also be preloaded.

  • NOTE: The preload tag is currently unsupported by wp_resource_hints, and it's expected that another (similar) function may be introduced to support this. Discussion here.

Other considerations

Unique handles

Unlike a style/script, the $handle is insufficient to represent a unique font (for the purposes of identification, registration, and conflict management). For fonts, we should consider the combination of the $handle, $style and $weight to represent a unique instance.

  • NOTE: If there are non-unique instances of a font, the last-enqueued version should take priority.

Invalid values & minimum requirements

Invalid or malformed values for parameters with constrained values (e.g., $style, $weight, $display) should fall back to their defaults.

Invalid or malformed values for parameters without constrained values (e.g., $range, $src) should be ignored.

If this validation results in there being no values for $handle and $src (which represents the bare minimum requirements), no CSS should be generated/output.

Next steps

There are lots of moving parts on this one, but I’m hoping that most of it is fairly straightforward. I’d love some feedback on (any gaps in / issues with) the spec.

I’m anticipating that we'll need a bunch of discussion, iteration, exploration and definition before it makes sense to start authoring any code on this one, but that said, it’d be super to see some of this start to take shape.

Change History (13)

#1 @ocean90
8 months ago

  • Summary changed from A proposal for creating wp_enqueue_font() to A proposal for creating an API to register and enqueue web fonts

#2 @ocean90
8 months ago

#46020 was marked as a duplicate.

#3 in reply to: ↑ description @jonoaldersonwp
8 months ago

Clarification: $src values should accept a local OR absolute URL, which allows for loading (and filtering, etc) of remotely hosted fonts, CDNs, etc.

Addition: We're hinting strongly from a privacy and performance basis that Google Fonts isn't a privacy-friendly or performance-friendly (without consideration and management - the kinds of which are often lacking, and which precipitated this spec). However, there's nothing stopping people from ignoring this function, and, continuing to / additionally loading Google Fonts resources.

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #core-privacy by garrett-eclipse. View the logs.

8 months ago

#5 @jonoaldersonwp
8 months ago

*Update*: Props to @westonruter, swapped the $src array ordering, to expect type => loc.

#6 @westonruter
8 months ago

  • Description modified (diff)

#7 @westonruter
7 months ago

  • Description modified (diff)

I've updated the proposed definition of wp_enqueue_font() to pass args as an array instead of many positional params.

Last edited 7 months ago by westonruter (previous) (diff)

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #core-editor by jonoaldersonwp. View the logs.

6 months ago

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #core-privacy by jonoaldersonwp. View the logs.

6 months ago

#10 @jonoaldersonwp
6 months ago

Note that, this assumes that as a user, I may still download fonts from foundries (e.g., Google Fonts) - where that's permissible -and use them as local versions through this approach.

This ticket was mentioned in Slack in #themereview by williampatton. View the logs.

6 months ago

#12 @westonruter
5 months ago

I've opened another incremental ticket with patch to implement Google Fonts new font-display capability: #47282.

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