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Benefits and Drawbacks of Address Bar Icons

 8:22 pm on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm looking at the LA times websites and notice they have a little icon in the address bar. I don't see icons too frequently, what are the pros and cons (visually as well as site function) of having a snippet of code that creates an icon for your site in someone's address bar/favorites area?



 8:34 pm on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

Personally I find it helps me locate the bookmark I want from my long long lists of bookmarks. It helps in two ways, not everyone uses them so those that do stand out, and if the image is well designed I don't even need to read the text description eventually.



 10:40 pm on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think you are referring to favicons. They are cool and when they work, they appear all over the place with their respective links. The problem is that they don't work reliably with Internet Explorer. I read an article a few months back that said that when you clear your temporarily internet files, the favicons get deleted as well, which is an obvious bug. I think this will be changed in IE 7 though.

They are easy to add to your web site if you have an icon editor. Just Google "favicons" and you'll find instructions.


 10:42 pm on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't say there are any real drawbacks - anyone disagree?


 2:44 am on Dec 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Only good things - additional branding, ease of identification (I love the browsers that show the favicon on the tab) and so on. I've been creating a favicon for any site I work with as a standard step for several years.


 3:47 pm on Dec 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Additional benefit of having a favicon: You won't get a bunch of 404's in your logs from when browsers were looking for the favicon file and not finding it.

BadSense said:
I wouldn't say there are any real drawbacks - anyone disagree?

I sure can't think of any.



 3:28 am on Dec 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all the feedback. I think I'll add one to a couple of my sites.


 2:09 am on Dec 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

They're good branding. The only real drawback is trying to design something that looks distinctive and recognisable with so few pixels to work with.


 5:30 pm on Dec 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think one key to a good favicon is to forget about color depth limitations when you are creating it. I know there is a lot of recommended limitation in this area - often built into the favicon building application, but I disagree.

You've only got 256 total pixels in the favicon anyway, so use them for good effect and make a favicon that is reminiscent of some prominent graphic element on the site. Using a one-color capital letter these days is not going to be a strong signal (unless you're Google.) But allowing subtle differences in shade and tone from pixel to pixel can help make a visually memorable icon.

When I look at stats, people who will see the favicon frequently (that is, non-IE users) also use 16-bit color or higher. So I let my image creation software have a lot of color information to work with rather than limitng the palette. The end result looks a lot better on modern machines - and no uglier than most when it degrades to a low color-depth system palette.


 10:54 pm on Dec 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

I added the favicon, one of the first results in google for the term is a site that converts your graphics to the .ico format for you. Noticed that it didn't show in the version of I.E. I had, only Mozilla (and it wouldn't appear in the bookmarked area, just in the address bar)


 4:43 am on Dec 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't say there are any real drawbacks - anyone disagree?

Maybe not a 'drawback' but if you do have a favicon in your files, there are several bots that harvest them for use on their websites, hotlinking to your file. I've had to ban these UAs since polite requests went unanswered.


 7:25 am on Dec 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

good point stapel, the main reason i started to use them was to get rid of the 404's, if you like looking at your logs the 404's get annoying.

a good fav can really catch a visitors eye too. the tough part is creating an original one that looks good. you don't have much real estate to work with for that graphic.

no drawbacks that i have encountered.

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