example of favicon

Add Your Website Icon to the Browser Tab

The cool little icon that shows up in each web page’s browser tab is called a “favicon”.  Adding this tiny detail really gives your website a professional appearance in the browser.  Here’s how to do it – and this works with older versions of IE, unlike other solutions I’ve found on the Internet! 

First, you’ll need to generate the artwork.  Keep in mind that it will be reduced to a 16 x 16 pixel square, so it can’t be too detailed.  To allow for higher resolutions in the future, I generate it as a 32 x 32 pixel image.  The browser will reduce it as needed.  Create your icon and save it as a .png file.

Recent Update

Since I wrote this article in 2012, the browser makers have standardized and now you just need one snippet of code and one icon file type. The following piece of code in the <head> section of your site will work for the latest versions of all major browsers now:

Substitute your image path inside the href.

If you’re interested in older browser backward compatibility, read on!

The Original Article

For compatibility with IE and Chrome, you’ll also need a .ico version of the icon.  Not to worry, this is a common need and there is a website just for doing that: convertico.com.  Type in the path to your .png file and hit GO.  A link to download the .ico file will appear to the right.

Upload these icon files to your server.  I usually put them in the images directory.

Next, add the following lines to the <head> portion of your website assuming that they are stored in the images directory of your website:

<!-- Hide this line for IE (needed for Firefox and others) -->
<![if !IE]>
<link rel="icon" href="http://yourwebsite/images/favicon.png" type="image/x-icon" />
<![endif]>
<!-- This is needed for IE -->
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="http://yourwebsite/images/favicon.ico" type="image/ico" />

If you are using WordPress, the <head> section is defined in the header.php file located in wp-content/themes/your-theme-name/.

Now some explanation about the conditional “if” statement.  Through trial and error, I found that the .ico file does not work with Firefox, and that the .png file works with all browsers except for IE, which chokes if it sees the .png file.  Hence the conditional browser comments.  Also, I’m talking about IE9 here.  Earlier versions of IE are even worse.  Some require the .ico file to be in the root of the hosted directory.  I leave that to those who want to do the research.  If there’s anyone who knows of a single method that covers all browsers, please comment below, however, I have not found a more complete description of how to do this in my Internet searches.

One Important Caveat

Note that all browsers employ caching when it comes to images, including the icon image.  So, when you’re testing this you’ll need to clear your browser cache whenever you change the icon.

Hope this helps! – Brian

35 thoughts on “Add Your Website Icon to the Browser Tab

  1. I’m a total novice when it comes to HTML. If I don’t have the icon stored on a website, but rather on my desktop, can I just substitute the file path name for the website?

    1. Hi John,

      Unfortunately, no. You have to upload that file from your computer to a server that is connected to the Internet. Usually that is done with an FTP program, or through your hosting provider’s website.

      Best,
      Brian

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