How much for a favicon?

Web development work (Logo and fonts £2,317.50, Favicon £585, E-newsletter £1,080)——Costs of new ICO corporate identity as at 21 July 2010

You know what a favicon is? It’s that little icon that you get in the corner of a browser tab (unless you’re using Safari). It’s a square image of 16 or 32 pixels on a side (or both). It’s pretty easy to make, and it’s straightforward enough to deploy: at the simplest, you put it in the root of the web server’s directory tree, and it just works.

So £585 for a favicon is surely some kind of obscene rip-off, right?

ICO favicon

I’m not so sure. I mean, yes, £585 solely for making a 32 by 32 pixel image like this would be daylight robbery, but I bet there’s more to it than that. I bet that actually making the icon was the least of the work.

Don’t believe me? I’ve had to deal with enterprise grade hosting providers that won’t as a matter of policy lift a finger until you’ve filled in and emailed a highly specific three-page Word document and given a magic password.

In any case, I wouldn’t expect an important government website to be deployed simply as and when a cowboy developer feels like it. So there’s probably a sensible process for testing beforehand. And, even though it seems a bit silly, even something as simple as adding a favicon has to go through that process. It probably makes sense to roll it into a bigger release, doesn’t it?

I’ve seen how febrile corporate types get when you helpfully add in a favicon in the course of other work. Never mind the fact that their frivolous, barely-visited, buggy website has barely worked for years: the sudden appearance of those 256 pixels is the most urgent existential threat that has ever impinged on their tiny brand-obsessed minds. That good turn will be punished with sudden, frantic phone calls demanding the immediate removal of said icon. (Yes, I am bitter about that. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you all about it.) So you can’t just make a favicon. It needs to be approved by all the relevant stakeholders [shudder].

I know how everyone and their 12-year-old son who’s ‘quite good at art’ is an expert design critic whose opinion must be sought and concerns placated before any design can be considered finished.

I know how many hours of horse-trading it takes to prioritise development, and to get a feature approved that could actually just have been done in half the time.

So, yeah, I’ll put a favicon on your site for £10, but I’ll also bill you for having to deal with the bureaucracy that I have to go through to get to that point.

  • Making a favicon: £10
  • Stakeholder engagement process & deployment planning: £575


You can make websites quickly and cheaply, but not if you’re riding on the back of a lumbering pachyderm, whether it’s public or private sector. That’s why small businesses will always have some advantages over large organisations.

I wish government could be more responsive and efficient, but I think it’s probably unrealistic to expect it to have costs of the same order as a hobbyist developer sitting in his bedroom.

See also: Oh. Christmas tree. by Paul Clarke.

Edit: and also: On £585 favicons… by Harry Metcalfe.


  1. Frankie Roberto

    Wrote at 2011-02-04 16:35 UTC using Safari 533.19.4 on Mac OS X:

    It can be worth having favicons of up to 64×64 (or even 128×128) nowadays – they’re used in more places than you might think (not just browser URL bars, but also bookmarks, browser histories, RSS readers, iphone home screens, search engine result pages, and so and so on.

    Also, Firefox displays them on a grey background, so if your icon is designed to sit on any colour background (rather than just white), you need to have a transparent background, with alpha-transparancy for anti-aliasing.

    For the iphone, you need to decide if you want the phone to display a glossy shine to it or not.

    So: lots of decisions to make, and worth getting right!
  2. James

    Wrote at 2011-02-04 17:15 UTC using Firefox 3.6.13 on Windows XP:

    Well said. A lot of people will have had no need to discover that on small jobs, no matter who they are for, it’s consultations, general paperwork, and bureaucracy which make up a huge portion of the cost.
  3. steve

    Wrote at 2011-04-15 14:10 UTC using Internet Explorer 7.0 on Windows XP:

    Apparently, AmberShadow Design are offering to create a favicon for 15 Bitcons which is about £9.