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Did you know you can give your website its very own app icon for iPhones and iPads? It only takes a few seconds and it makes your site look really smart when it’s saved on a user’s home screen, or when viewed in popular apps such as Reeder.
Why create an app icon?
Specifying an app icon is one of those little finishing touches that isn’t really noticeable but makes all the difference if you take it away. Without an app icon if you bookmark a site on your iPhone or iPad you’re left with an ugly screenshot of the page crammed into the little rounded square, but with one line of code you can choose your own icon design, such as a logo. It’s much like a favicon, but on a larger scale.
Having someone bookmark your site onto their device home screen is probably a rare occurrence, but as I discovered today there’s another major benefit of creating an app icon. Roberto Alanís tweeted me recently asking how I achieved such a nice icon in Reeder app. My first response was “I don’t know!”, but then I realised it was my apple touch icon that was being used.
How to create an Apple touch icon
The specified dimensions of a touch icon directly from Apple is 114x114px, this will compensate for Retina displays and produce a nice crisp home screen icon. However, as you can see from the Reeder screenshot, other sites using 114px touch icons don’t fill all the available space. Reeder is one of the most popular RSS apps, plus the touch icon may be used elsewhere too, so it’s worth creating your icon at much larger dimensions.
I chose the dimensions of 512x512px, which is probably a little overkill, but apparently 241x241px would suffice.
Next you need to decide whether you want Apple to add their glossy highlight effects to your icon. If you do, name it
apple-touch-icon.png, if you don’t, name it
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/apple-touch-icon.png" />
<link rel="apple-touch-icon-precomposed" href="/apple-touch-icon-precomposed.png" />
You don’t actually need to write any code to get your touch icon working, just pop it in the root directory of your website and it will automatically be used by Apple devices. It might be worth linking it in your
<head> though just as a reminder that it’s there. If you ever redesign you might end up forgetting to update it. Once again, make your choice of glossy or precomposed.