Why Icon and Symbol Fonts are here to Stay
Icon and symbol fonts speedily became popular years ago but their benefits had not been realized before they were fully accepted for use in website design. The internet revolutionized over the years with the most notable times being when we got rid of tables, in-line markups and spacer gif images and instead embraced CSS and the ideas of reducing page sizes while separating website layout from styles. Symbol fonts can easily pass as our leaders to the next generation in website design and online communication and especially when it comes to optimizing website performance. Symbols embedded in fonts as tiny icons come with tons of benefits and here are the reasons they will be around for long.
Smooth Browsing Experience
The best thing about Icon fonts is that they provide a kind of smooth and seamless browsing experience to a visitor hence the reason more and more websites are adopting the use of icon fonts. The best example of a site that uses icon fonts is github.com which is currently using a single custom symbol font file also called Octicon. Since the site started using Octicons, the website loading speed and general user experience has tremendously improved. Icon fonts are designed to be used as decorations, glyphs and of course as icons on a website and unlike an Octicon which is a single font file, they icon fonts are made up of many tiny icon files.
Clearer, crisp look and feel
Icon fonts are here to stay because its merits overshadow the few drawbacks. One of the most important benefits of using them is that they provide crisp, clear and consistent reading for the user because these fonts are made of smooth vector images in HTML and not the blocky raster images. The raster images are bulky yet cannot be properly resized without quality distortion. especially when it comes to enlargement. Since vectors don’t have this problem, it is much more advisable that web designers make use of icon fonts in their websites.
Simplified character to image conversion
Icon and generally symbol fonts cannot be used as images because of their small sizes but they fit quite well as fonts. Most of the earliest symbol fonts are still mapped to a graphic letter on the ASCII chart and pressing letters on the keyboard will produce an image e.g. pressing ‘M’ gives a picture of an envelope. This means that users can now easily convert letters to symbols by simply typing.
Although icon fonts have their downsides, their benefits extend beyond what I have mentioned here. For instance, icon fronts has made it much easier to embed graphics into HTML, they are easily rendered by browsers including IE6 and later because icon fonts are basically vectors and because they have ligatures, the text typed is much clearer and readable where there are double letters. If you would like to see some examples of icon fonts and know more of its benefits, you can check out the free icons Fontastic lets you download.