Ninja tip: How to create a custom iPhone/iPad home screen icon for your website

Interested in making one of those custom website icons that show up on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad when you hit "Add to Homescreen"? A cool icon will make visitors want to add a WebClip of your site to their home screens. They'll show it to their friends, their friends will also add WebClips of your site, and your site will zoom up the Google Page ranks. (Hey, every little bit helps!). Thanks to SockRolid from the forums, we'll show you how after the break!

It's actually quite easy, though thanks to Apple adding iPad and now Retina Display resolutions to the lineup this year, you do have to take the larger size into account:

  • First, create a relatively small, square PNG file. 120x120 is the way to go if you want it to look good on iPad and crisp on iPhone 4.
  • Don't worry about rounding the corners, Apple will do that automatically and even add the "shiny" treatment as well.

This is what the TiPb WebClip icon looks like:

  • After you've created the ultimate icon, name it "apple-touch-icon.png"
  • Now upload it in your website's root directory (typically via FTP). For example, http://www.yoursite.com/apple-touch-icon.png

That's it, you're done. What could be easier?

Now when visitors are browsing your site on an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, they can just hit the "action" button (on iOS 4.2, the "+" button or earlier versions of iOS) and tap "Add to Home Screen". That's will create a WebClip right alongside their apps. They get instant one-touch access to your site, and your site get more traffic. Never underestimate the power of simplicity. Especially when it's also cool and shiny.

Bonus tip: If you don't create a custom icon for your site, Apple will create one for you based on a tiny screenshot of whatever random page, at whatever random zoom-level, your visitor happened to be on when they tapped "Add to Home Screen." Image may not be everything, but as we all know it's crucially important. Don't leave it to chance. Manage your site's image.

UPDATE: Marc Edwards was nice enough to point us towards Jesse Dodd's article from Campaign Monitor on how to take your web icons to the next level.

I put together three simple snippets of code which target each individual iOS device according to their pixel densities. 163dpi for the iPhone 3G/3GS and iPod Touch, 132dpi for the iPad and a whopping 326dpi for the iPhone4.

If you notice in the above code I have used apple-touch-icon-precomposed. The addition of -precomposed stops iOS from automatically rendering gloss atop my icon and rounding it’s corners. If you do want iOS to auto-apply the gloss and rounded corners automatically (so you can supply a flat, square image), simply use rel=“apple-touch-icon”.

So did you get it to work? If you have questions, let us know in the comments. If your site has a great new icon, drop us a link to it as well so we can check it out!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you’d like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to dailytips@tipb.com. (If it’s especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we’ll even give ya a reward…)

Georgia

Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, hosts the ZEN & TECH podcast, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Prime.

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There are 53 comments. Add yours.

Tony Graziano says:

How do you do it if you are using iWeb??? I just created a icon and wanna spice up my link on my iphone/ipad/itouch

Mrjr says:

Slick! Didn't realize it was that easy.

Joe McG says:

I didn't realize it was that easier either. I can't stand when websites don't have an icon. The screenshot icon looks cheesy.
One time I noticed the Tipb icon changed to something different for just a few minutes. Must have been Rene screwing around...

fastlane says:

Also might want to mention renaming them.
There's a maximum width the names can be to display completely. This all depends on the characters that are used.
For example, some names might max out at 10 or 11 characters, but if more characters in the name are the letter "i", for instance, then more characters (longer names) will display completely.

Calum says:

How do u put it the websites directory? This may sound stupid but i dont really know what a directory is, is it a folder or something? If someone could tell me that would be great:D

sib0rg says:

cool! i never thought it was that easy

Jeff B. says:

@Calum...to put it on a website's directory you have to have read/write access to it. In other words, it has to be your site. I just did this for my band's website. It works well.

SockRolid says:

@ Calum, @ Tony - "How do you do it if you're using iWeb?"
I actually haven't tried this using iWeb and MobileMe, but these steps might work if you're using both:
If you have published your site with iWeb on MobileMe and you have a domain name associated with your site, you should be able to drop the file into the iDisk/Web/Sites folder.
If you don't have a domain name associated with your site, and it's on MobileMe, you should be able to drop the file into http://web.me.com/MobileMeAccountName/File_Name
Please let me know if either of these worked. (I hand-code all my HTML/Javascript/CSS so I'm clueless about iWeb.) And I'm not sure how you'd put the image file into an iWeb-published site that's not on MobileMe, since Apple has encapsulated iWeb projects. The files are compressed, then stored in a proprietary ".sites2" package.

Aaron Matthew Kaiser says:

The "Advanced Usage" would be to reference it in your code as such:
This allows you to place it in other locations (e.g., /images) and should allow you to set it if using Blogger (where you can't upload images, but can modify code), etc. I usually place this with my favicon code.
If using WordPress (especially a multisite install), you want the image in your theme directory, not root directory. Thus, the code would be:
/apple-touch-icon.png"/ >

Rene Ritchie says:

Updated with some great info for those obsessed with pixel perfection.

yeahmanh says:

@aaron,
where do i throw the code that you've prodived? thanks in advance!

Aaron Matthew Kaiser says:

@yeahmanh you put it in your code (I wrote it before, but forgot to escape the < > and it was stripped). Anywhere in the head section will do. My preference is near the end, right before the tag.
The last three lines of my section look like this:
directory'); ?>/favicon.ico" />
directory'); ?>/apple-touch-icon.png" />

Aaron Matthew Kaiser says:

Note on last post: Funkiness on formatting. If copy/pasting for WordPress, make sure the php code says bloginfo('template_directory');
(Somehow, the space was removed and some of it is italicized.)

CG says:

@ SockRolid @ Tony “How do you do it if you’re using iWeb?”
In case of a site published to iWeb on MobileMe with a domain name associated to the site, it works fine to simply drop the file into the iDisk/Web/Sites folder.

Ed says:

can't seem to get it to work for a site published with iweb on mobile me. when i "add to home screen" i still just get a grab of whatever was on the webpage. no icon.

SockRolid says:

@ Ed - Try opening your iDisk, then navigating to the Web / Sites folder. Then drop the image into the Sites folder and see if it works.

Ed says:

thanks for the reply. but i've tried that a few times. no result. just to confirm, it's a 120 x 120 RGB png file called apple-touch-icon.png, correct? thanks again for trying to assist me.

ofthesea says:

Worked like a CHARM for my blog, thank you so much!!!

Tony Graziano says:

but if I use iweb and I upload to godaddy im at a loss?

GeoffD says:

@Ed put the code in the index.HTML file. You can find it under iDisk/Sites and add the png file. Keep diging It can be done with sites made from iWeb

Massie says:

Any hints for making this work with Google Sites?

FLskydiver says:

Thanks, great idea. Just updated my sites.

LozBlanko says:

Great tip - much appreciated

Jon says:

If you want to prevent the pre-rendered gloss effect simply name the PNG apple-touch-icon-precomposed.png and iOS will not gloss it.

grant says:

that didnt work for me, any idea why?

Gunilla says:

Great idea, any hints for making this work with Google Sites?

Hipolito says:

Very well writ­ten arti­cle. It will be ben­e­fi­cial to every­one who uti­lizes it, includ­ing myself. Keep doing what you are doing — can’r wait to read more posts.

Arie Hathcoat says:

When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thank you!

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Vince says:

Can a similar thing be done other types of mobile devices.,android, blackberry ?

Vince says:

Can a similar thing be done for other types of mobile devices.,android, blackberry ?

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doug says:

Curious, If you add the image to your root dir (http://www.yoursite.com/apple-touch-icon.png) is that the default image icon that will appear when you "add to homescreen"?

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Exceptional post. I much like the way you expose your writing talent! Keep up good operate.

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123 says:

Is it possible for a user to customize a button when a website hasn't?

خالد says:

vary helpful tip I bookmarked it, and I'll try to do it on my site

Lilrasha says:

I placed the image in the root directory of my Joomla site and it is still pulling the Joomla logo instead of my icon. Any help?

ΟΝΗΣΙΛΟΣ / ONISILOS says:

how do i do that in Blogger? How do i upload the image in root directory?

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