Article: The Final Nail in the Icon Fonts Coffin?

An excerpt from, by @alexmwalker

Using vector graphics as navigation icons has always made perfect sense.

But it seemed to be the arrival of the retina screen (2011-ish) that really lit a rocket under the idea.

Almost overnight icons that had looked fine on standard screens suddenly looked like they’d been brutally hacked from an old newspaper with rusty pocketknife. The minor niggles we might have had with scalable vectors suddenly seemed well worth tackling.

At the time – as the case is today – there were two ways to deliver vectors to browser and each had their pros and cons.

##Web fonts vs. SVG

Although both technologies had been around for a long time, web fonts seemed to grab the early lead. Many of us were already comfortable working with fonts, and there’s no doubt that plug-n-play solutions like FontAwesome made getting started that much easier.

But things have been changing over the past year or so.

While people are beginning to appreciate the power and flexibility of SVG, some of the ‘gotchas’ attached to icon fonts have become more apparent. These include:

  • an arcane patchwork of font-face support (and bugs)
  • positioning limitations (CSS line-height, vertical-align etc)
  • font file re-authoring overheads
  • a lack of tonal/color options

We can now add a handful of new items to that list.

A couple of weeks ago Seren Davies (@Ninjanails) gave a talk at the London Web Standards group called ‘Death to Icon Fonts‘. Seren is dyslexic and detailed some of the issues that icon fonts introduce to her browsing experience.

Continue reading this article on SitePoint.

I think this article is jumping the gun a bit. We have been using FA at my work for a little over a year now and it’s been an absolute godsend for shops like mine who only have full stack developers. Sure there are some limitations and sometimes things get a little weird, especially when trying to layer them. But I have yet to run into a problem that couldn’t be solved by taking a few steps back and saying “ok, can’t do that. let’s try to think about this another way.”

Honestly, the only issue I have with FA is that there is only 1 style and most everything is starting to look the same online. Which, for our users at least, probably goes completely unnoticed. And there aren’t enough good alternatives, even the premium ones that cost money are fairly lacking compared to FA.

I’d say that this is still just the beginning of icon fonts. I really like the idea and having a huge selection of choices already there available to me. Especially when the boss, who likes to have design input from time to time, says “We need an icon for this. Can you do that?”, I just send him a link to the FA sheet and let him pick it out himself. The best part of that is, he can’t say “can you make it do this?” or “can you add this to it?” the answer is just simply “nope.”

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Same here. Either through FA or other glyph libraries and call it a day. Worst case, I look for 16x16 images from Google and call it a day. I’m just glad that I didn’t have a customer complaining about the icons.

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