Perhaps it is because we are all embarrassed for Google, but their most recent favicon has received very little comment. If favicon is a word that it is new to you that is the very small 16 pixel by 16 pixel icon that appears at the front end of the address bar in your browser.
The BBC attempts this morning to provide a little more understanding about Google’s new mini icon. It still leaves a little confusion, so let us try and bring a little clarity to the issue.
Since a favicon appears every time you use your browser and also in your list of favorites, despite its small size it is a very powerful visual clue to a website. Changing such an icon can often upset your loyal visitors. Just look at the Tech Digest reaction to a change in the Google icon back in May last year.
Google changes its favicon from uppercase white ‘G’ to lowercase purple ‘G’ – thoughts? Soooo…has anyone noticed Google is wearing some new clothes today? That’s right, they’ve changed their favicon, that little ‘G’ logo which appears on tabs and at the beginning of the URL in the address bar.
I have to say, I don’t mind it, although it’s quite annoying when you’re scanning your 17-odd open tabs, and can’t find the one open with Gmail/Google News/Google Images etc, as you don’t recognise the new icon.
The latest choice of favicon for Google seems very paradoxical. This is a company that has changed its logo but a little over the last 10 years. Their present favicon seems most out of character. The image below shows the favicon magnified by a factor of eight. It is somewhat fuzzy but perhaps that is intentional.
According to the BBC article, it is all part of the new theory about brands that suggests they should be in constant evolution.
Steve Plimsoll, of brand consultancy FutureBrand, says, "Logos are set to become fluid, ever-changing, customisable, even personalised entities and Google is the first global brand that understands this. We are going to have to get used to the idea of our brands changing frequently, and when we do, every three months will seem like the dark ages."
I for one disagree profoundly. It rather sounds like the words of those tailors who designed the new clothes for the Emperor. Even if it were true for brands, I do not believe it should apply to these incredibly tiny icons. Getting good recognition of such a small feature requires repetition. It therefore should be a constant for a reasonable period of time, probably measured in years.
The 16 pixel by 16 pixels favicon also requires some image that is very identifiable. If it is too fuzzy then people may have difficulty in recognizing it. As an example the favicon for the new blog, Senior Money Memos, is that shown on the right. It is intended to symbolize a senior with a white beard. It is readily identifiable. That should be the mark of a good favicon.
Thankfully it would seem from the BBC item that the present Google favicon is very much a work in progress.
If you don’t like the new look, then, you can wait or, more proactively, send the company your own design. When it unveiled the small ‘g’ last year, the company’s head of search products & user experience, Marissa Mayer, hinted at a transitory solution, saying "by no means is the one you’re seeing our final favicon; it was a first step to a more unified set of icons."
We cannot wait to see Google’s final favicon. Hopefully they go back to something as simple and direct as their original favicon.