What on earth is a favicon?
You may have noticed recently all kinds of new little pictures popping up when you read a blog, or are looking at listings some people like me have on their sidebar (see Local Vocals to the right).
The large orange 'B' for Blogger and 'W' for Wordpress are still there (as is what looks like a speech bubble for Typepad), but in other instances such as Meet at Malvern listed to the right, or if you're reading my blog in a browser which uses tabs, you'll see another picture: in my case a tiny square version of my Avatar.
These are all favicons (aka favourite icon) and are used particularly by online businesses as part of their company branding. Where does this fit with blogging? Well, it mainly depends on whether you want to 'brand' your blog in a similar way to what a company would do, OR you want your blog to be distinct from others using the same blogging platform as yourself.
As most of my current online presence is using a pseudonym, I decided very early on in my blogging 'career' that I wouldn't change my avatar, so that everyone would know when it was me doing the talking irrespective of where it was displayed. By complete accident I'd also chosen something pretty distinctive which contained a tiny picture of me in the middle - perfect!
Therefore it seems sensible for me to have my own favicon and have now installed them on all my Blogger and Wordpress blogs. An unexpected advantage I've discovered since then is when I have loads of tabs open (as I often do when writing a post), I can find my blog(s) much more quickly amongst all the sea of Bs and Ws et al. at the top of my screen.
OK you've sold it to me. How do I install a favicon on my blog?
Using the Blogger Help facility to find out more about favicons comes up with a list of links which are largely out of date. The key information you need if you're contemplating changing from the big orange B is in the Buzz post dated 1st August. It's pretty straight forward to install, but note that the picture you're proposing to use needs to be in a square format first.
I used the facilities in Microsoft Office Picture Manager to crop and save my Avatar into a square format: your photo editor of choice should have the same facility. I kept the picture as large as possible (in terms of pixels) as Blogger takes care of getting the picture down to the right size. Some favicon displays can be larger than the 16x16 pixel standard, so it's good to have a file I can use for any upload I might do in the future.
Wordpress have renamed the favicon as blavatar (blog avatar) in their online help. Their upload facilities will take rectangular format pictures and you have the option to choose your preferred crop into a square format as part of this process.
Other points to note when using favicons:
- Blogger accepts all image types and Wordpress currently (as of 27th August 2011) accepts JPEG and png file types only: other providers may be different. The industry standard is to use a file type that uses .ico after the file name. It's very easy to convert your picture or photo to an .ico file using this handy converter. NB the resultant image is in 16x16 pixel size and it's probably automatically saved your new file to your download folder on your computer if you're wondering where it is!
- When discussing Wordpress, I only have experience of Wordpress.com. Wordpress.org users are welcome to add anything useful in the comments below
- You may find that your new favicon isn't displayed straight away. Mine were there after about 24 hours
- Most favicons are displayed as 16x16 pixels so you need to choose something which is still identifiable at such a small size. Most photos won't be (I believe mine is borderline) as most have lots of colours in them, so simple, clear graphics like the ones used by Blogger and Wordpress are recommended and tend to work best
- The Wikipedia entry says that favicons can slow website download times. This is true as any graphics or photos you have on your page have a much larger file size than the text. However, we all have some kind of favicon associated with our blogs already. The upload process used by Blogger and Wordpress should* be such that the resultant file used is no larger than if you chose to keep their favicons on your blog
* = note to self: must test this out...