It’s true, favicons are very little things, probably the least important bit of a site, but it’s attention to detail that makes a site stand out; and even if it sounds crazy, favicons are very important from a branding point-of-view.
What is a favicon?
Favicons are small square images usually 16×16 pixels which are used by web browsers to show a graphical representation of the site being visited at the left side of the browser’s address bar. You have probably seen many favicons before, even if you don’t know what they are. If there’s any doubt, the image below will help.
What’s the purpose of a favicon?
Back in the early days of the internet, tools such as Google Analytics were mere dreams in the minds of a few web-nerds, so as strange as this may sound, at that time, favicons were used as a way to estimate website traffic by counting the number of visitors who bookmarked the page. (That’s another interesting snippet in the history of the internet!)
But interesting facts aside, the main reason for having favicons nowadays is to improve user experience. Favicons are used in all modern browsers at the address bar, in the links bar, in the bookmarking area and in its browsing tabs. Besides that, a few browsers also show favicons whenever you create a shortcut link for the corresponding website in your desktop and your mobile device.
Surely the main reason to have a favicon is the obvious improvement in user experience. A website without one will show a generic browser symbol on all the points-of-interaction I mentioned above, and if you care about your user experience, you must care about favicons.