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Internet Marketing Tools - Icon Basics
Part five of ten

By Shelley Lowery

An icon is a graphic image that represents an available function on a computer's graphical user interface. They look like a standard image file, however, to create an icon, you must have a special software program capable of creating and saving an image in ICO format.

The size of an icon will vary depending on the application it is associated with. Some will require a 16x16 pixel image and others may require a 32x32 pixel image. In addition, the number of required colors may be 16 or 256.

Favicon

If you're using Internet Explorer 5 or above, you've probably noticed that some sites you've placed within your "Favorite Places" have an icon that displays beside the link. This icon is known as a "Favicon." Displaying a Favicon with a website can not only make it stand out among the sites listed, but it can also build brand awareness.

A Favicon should represent your website and provide viewers with an instant recognition of your website. This can be accomplished by using a specific symbol or logo that defines what your website is all about.

Creating Your Icon

You can easily create a custom icon for your website that will display within your visitors' "Favorite Places."

Your first step will be to download an icon creation program. I recommend using a great shareware program called Icon Easel. You can download it at the following web address: http://www.easyapps.com/

To create an icon with Icon Easel, you simply open the program and select your icon size and color preference from the dropdown menu to begin. Your icon will automatically be created in the preferences you specify. Internet Explorer requires that your icon is 16x16 pixels. If it isn't, it will be ignored.

You're now ready to begin the actual design process. The large window that contains all the squares is your icon canvas. Each square represents a pixel and can be edited to suit your needs. Use the tools on the left-hand side of your screen to edit these pixels and design your icon.

Using an Image

If you have an image that you would like to use as an icon, you can do so in a couple of different ways. You can either copy your image and paste it onto your icon canvas, or you can paste your image from a file.

If you're not confident in your abilities to design your own icon, using a pre-designed image will be your best option.

Creating a Transparent Background

When designing your icon, unless your icon covers the entire canvas, you'll want to make the background transparent. This will allow the canvas of your icon to be transparent and enable the background to show through.

Your first step will be to click on the "Screen" button on the right-hand side of your screen. This will display the transparency lines within your left color window. To add transparency to a pixel, click on the "Flood Fill" tool (tipping paint can) on the left-hand side of your screen and fill in the pixels you'd like to make transparent.

When you're finish with your icon, simply save your file as favicon.ico and upload it to your server where you store your HTML files.

Associating Your Icon

Each time your visitor adds your site to their "Favorite Places," Internet Explorer automatically searches for your favicon.ico file and displays it next to your site's link. You can also associate the icon with your web page by saving the icon with a different file name other than favicon.ico and adding the following code within your HTML between the and tags.

<LINK REL="SHORTCUT ICON" HREF=
"http://www.domain.com/icon.ico">

The URL should lead to your icon file.

Ebook Icons

In addition to creating an icon for your website, many HTML ebook compilers will enable you to display your own product icon. This icon will be displayed on your clients' desktop. When clicked on, it will open your ebook.

Before creating an icon to be used with your ebook, make sure you review your compilation software to make sure that you can include your own icon and to get their specifications.

Creating and displaying your own icon is not as difficult as you may think. If you follow the simple instructions above, you can create your own icons in a matter of minutes.

Copyright Shelley Lowery 2002.


About the Author: This article was adapted from the highly acclaimed ebook series, Web Design Mastery. Web Design expert and author Shelley Lowery's latest ebook is an in-depth guide to professional web design that is rapidly becoming known as the "Bible" for professional web design. http://www.webdesignmastery.com


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