Because favicon love is so easy to give

If you’re running a website, did you give your favicon any love?  Do you even know what a favicon is?

A favicon is simple a mini-logo (icon?) that shows up next to your URL in most address bars. (Favicons also show up on the tabs of browsers and are often included next to articles you write when being pulled by other news sites, such as this business week page about online real estate that pulled the favicons when linking to articles from Rain City Guide and Inman News). and

Here is the favicon I created for 4realz.net: 

In terms of a icon, I don’t like it as much as the 4realz logo that I generally use on my marketing materials:

but it shows up so much better when displayed at a really small size and kept the site’s color scheme. The idea is that people who know the site will quickly start to relate the favicon to 4realz.net.

Before creating a favicon for a different site (not yet launched), I decided to do a bit of research and look at the favicons for a variety of real estate sites. Here’s a peak at some of the sites I looked at:

There are some really good favicons there in that they are instantly recognizable for the website they represent, but just as many are pretty bad… and without the help of a little text, it’d be hard to know what site they represent.

So what makes for a good favicon?

A good favicon is:

  1. Really simple
  2. Limited to two or three colors
  3. Recognizable in place of your logo

However, as the examples form above show, using your logo is almost never a good idea.

For example, the blue/green “Z” house of the Zillow logo, just doesn’t cut it for me at the small size of a favicon.   Ditto for the landscape scenes used by Altos Research and Real Central Virgina.

Something more likely to work is a cute play on the logo, such as the tomato from the Real Estate Tomato, the owl’s eyes of Roost, the explosion from Blown Mortgage, or (I like to think) the rain drop of Rain City Guide.  At the same time, the “R” of Realtor is so recognizable that the realtor.com team was smart to keep their favicon that simple.

Looking through the list of favicons from above, it’s also obvious that the “home” metaphor is way overdone. Phoenix Real Estate Guy, Redfin, The Real Estate Bloggers, Move, HotPads, Estately, Altos Research, and Zillow all feature homes in their favicons…

Create your own Favicon!

So, you’re inspired to create a nice looking favicon for your site.   Here’s how I created the 4realz favicon in a few minutes using nothing more powerful than Microsoft Word (or in my case, Mac’s Pages app):

Step 1: Using a document processer (Microsoft Word will work), create your image. For the 4realz logo, I create a grey circle and put a blue “4” in the center.   If you feel like you need something more complex than simple graphics and simple text, then you’re probably making your favicon too complicated!

Step 2: Take a screenshot of the image

Step 3: Upload your screenshot to Genfavicon, and follow their simple instructions in order to create an “*.ico” image. (as mentioned in a recent hotlist post!)

Step 4: Rename the file “favicon.ico”and upload it to the root file of your server.

That’s it! Once you’ve created one favicon, I think you’ll see that the entire process can be done in less than 10 minutes.

It’s worth noting that in order to have a personalized favicon, you MUST be using a self-hosted website where you can add files to the server.  Folks using blog platforms like ActiveRain and WordPress.com can’t have their own favicon. 🙁

Of course, if you have photoshop you can get way more advanced and create really killer favicons directly from the app, but if you know what you’re doing in photoshop, then you probably wouldn’t read this far!  😉

Finally, favicons are important because they show just how much effort you put into the details.  They’ll never be a big thing (they’re way too small!) and they’ll never bring success to your website, but with a little effort, it’s not hard to create a fun, recognizable icon that will help you make a better connection with your readers.

Moving to a Self Hosting Platform from WordPress.com

So, it’s been a half-day since the big move and everything appeared to have gone pretty smoothly.   While I followed my steps pretty darn closely, there were a few adjustments.   So here are the steps I used to move from a hosted wordpress.com account to a self-hosted environment:

  1. Export posts/comments/categories/etc XML file to hard-drive
  2. Save a copy of the blogroll’s OPML file
  3. Copy the header graphic to hard-drive
  4. Set up new database with the host and configure wp-config.php file to point to new servers.
  5. Upload, but don’t activate, wordpress files to the new host servers *
  6. Publish posts on your existing blog saying changes are on the way  (Here’s my example) 🙂
  7. Change DNS settings using your domain registrar to point to your new host.
  8. Ask new host to recognize 4realz.net as the new primary domain (this step probably really depends on the host)
  9. When your host recognizes 4realz.net as the primary domain, configure MX settings.
  10. Wait for DNS settings to take effect and begin redirecting traffic to the new site!
  11. When your local ISP recognizes the new site, then run the WordPress 5 min install
  12. Import blog posts from XML file.  After uploading the initial file, be sure to confirm you want to batch in multimedia.**
  13. Configure theme, activate plugins, import blogroll, etc.

* Note I actually ran threw a test where I completed steps 1 through 4 AND activated the WP blog using the dummy domain I had set up with the host just to make sure I would have no problems installing WP on their backend. I then deleted everything and started over for the “official” move because it seems more intuitive to me to wait to “activate” the WP blog until after it’s going to be configured to the correct domain.

** At this state, I had to change the “php.ini to allow for uploads greater than 2MB. Not hard, but also not self-evident. And a great reason to do a the test I mentioned in the first note.

One of the many reasons to blog on WordPress.com is…

…that the wordpress.com domain does REALLY well in google searches for the various “tags” that get associated with posts.

For example, the wordpress.com tag for REALOGY shows up just below the wikipedia entry for the company and above the Inman news page on REALOGY:

realogy search results in google

And because Rob and I are the only people on the platform talking about Realogy, we get an outsized influence in how Realogy is represented on the web.