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.