Why Web Icon Fonts are brilliant

Posted Friday 14th Dec 2012 by Rob Bavington

My brother James and I have been chatting a lot over the past week about how amazing Icon Web Fonts are, so I’ve put together a little video blog to show the key benefits. If you’re unfamiliar with Icon Fonts, they’re not too dissimilar from Wingdings. They’re useful, lightweight, modern typefaces that are perfect for displaying icons on your website without the baggage that often comes with using images.

Now we’ll talk about these specific Icon Fonts in a moment, but typefaces like Font Awesome, which is free, or Fico carry huge benefits to designers – which is probably why they’ve been so popular with web designers in 2012.

You can think of Icon Fonts as any normal font or web-font. As a designer you can easily adjust the size, colour and even add shadows with CSS. Icon Fonts work in almost all browsers including IE6, which means you get transparency without messing around with any ugly hacks. Most importantly, a lightweight or hand-picked Web Icon Font will load quicker in the browser that it’s image counterpart which will help with your page-speed optimization.

Web Icon Fonts have been huge in 2012

James and I think there’s 3 simple, key reasons why Icon Web Fonts are so popular in 2012:

  1. The icons are simply pretty cool and modern
  2. Responsive web design
  3. Retina displays.

So with Responsive web-design, there’s a good chance that you might want to increase or decrease an icon’s size, particularly if you’re using it within a button. Just like text, you can use media queries to simply change the type size without needing to reference a different image file. And unlike raster, pixel based images – Icon Fonts are vector so they look crisp at any resolution.

If you haven’t already, we’d recommending heading over to some of the many Icon Fonts available online. Like we mentioned earlier, Font Awesome is a great starting point as their current free set includes over 200 icons and can be installed and used on your website within minutes.

There’s also plenty of premium paid Icon Fonts and also great tools like Fontello where you can create your very own hand-picked, lightweight hybrid Icon Font by combining the best of the free Icon Fonts available.

So, wrapping up – we’re pretty confident that Icon Fonts are going to continue in popularity in 2013. It wouldn’t surprise us if the Google Web Font archive dons a set or two in the near future.

Example results when using Font Awesome, as shown on their web page.

Example results when using Font Awesome, as shown on their web page.

Web Icon Fonts & SEO

Also, don’t worry about the potential SEO headache of having random single letters hanging around your HTML markup. Icon Font Packs, like Font Awesome for example, have been set-up so that you can render with empty italic tags.

If you refer to the embedded image opposite, and the HTML markup below, you can see how the empty italics tags are used with a class to render icons in a similar fashion to how we might use span tags.

<ul class="nav nav-list">
	<li class="active"><a href="#"> Home</a></li>
	<li><a href="#"> Library</a></li>
	<li><a href="#"> Applications</a></li>
	<li><a href="#"> Settings</a></li>

Thanks for watching this week, check out our supporting post for more resources and live examples of Icon Fonts in action from around the web.

By Rob Bavington

I am a great lover of the online design world and hold a passion for great passion for typography. I play the guitar and enjoy a spot of fishing on a relaxing Sunday afternoon

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  • http://www.creare-webdesign.co.uk/ James Bavington

    Nice video Rob & Fliss, Web Font Icons are pretty damn good!