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WordPress Dashicons: How to Use and Make the Most Out of Them

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Hey there! Have you ever wanted to add some flair to your WordPress site with crisp, scalable icons? Well, I‘ve got some good news for you – WordPress comes packed with its own set of ultra customizable icon fonts called Dashicons that you can use for free!

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the world of Dashicons – how they came to be, why you should use them, and some really clever ways to implement them across your site. I‘ll even share some insider tips from my years of experience using Dashicons. So strap in for an icon-filled adventure!

A Brief History of Dashicons

Let‘s start from the beginning – where did Dashicons come from anyway?

Well, our story begins back in 2013 when Automattic UX lead Helen Hou-Sandí revealed that WordPress would be getting its own icon font in version 3.8. At the time, icon fonts like Font Awesome were gaining popularity for their small file size and flexibility compared to image icons.

But there was no open source icon set specifically tailored for WordPress topics and elements. So Helen led the charge to create one natively for WordPress – enter Dashicons!

Since their debut, the adoption and popularity of Dashicons has exploded. There are now over 350 validated vector icons in the Dashicons library and they‘ve become integral throughout the WordPress ecosystem.

Just look at this growth chart of total Dashicons over time:

Release Year Total Dashicons
2013 75
2014 114
2015 164
2020 351

Over 7 years, the Dashicons library has grown by over 350%! This just goes to show how indispensable they‘ve become in WordPress.

But why use Dashicons compared to other icon options out there?

The Benefits of Using Dashicons

There are several advantages that make Dashicons the perfect icon font option for WordPress sites:

Relevance – Since they were designed specifically for WordPress, the available icons closely match elements you‘d want to represent like posts, admin menus, widgets, notifications, and more.

Performance – Dashicons were built for speed. With a single HTTP request, you can load all the icons at once instead of separate image files. The result? Faster load times and reduced server resource usage.

Flexibility – You can scale Dashicons infinitely without pixelation, change colors, add effects like drop shadows, and even animate them with CSS3 transitions.

Accessibility – Dashicons have built-in accessibility with aria-hidden=true so screen readers know to skip them. They also inherit surrounding text color automatically.

Compared to other popular icon fonts, Dashicons really shine:

Dashicons Font Awesome
Relevance for WP Maximum Medium
Performance Fast Slower
Accessibility Built-in Requires work

The numbers speak for themselves – Dashicons are hands-down the best option for WordPress sites.

Now let‘s dive into my step-by-step guide on implementing them…

How to Add Dashicons to Your WordPress Site

I‘ll walk you through the process of adding Dashicons in WordPress quickly and easily:

Enqueue Dashicons

First, you need to load the icon font stylesheet on your site front-end.

Add this snippet to your theme‘s functions.php file:

function add_dashicons() {
  wp_enqueue_style( ‘dashicons‘ );
}

add_action( ‘wp_enqueue_scripts‘, ‘add_dashicons‘ );

This will load Dashicons icons site-wide.

Pro Tip: Use a child theme so any edits won‘t get overridden in updates!

Get Dashicon Code

Next, browse the Dashicons library and click any icon you like to access the HTML and CSS code.

It looks something like this:

<span class="dashicons dashicons-heart"></span> 
.dashicons-heart:before {
  content: "\f487";
}

Copy the code snippet for your chosen icon.

Add Icons to Your Site

Now paste the Dashicon code wherever you want icons on your site!

Some ideas:

  • In wp_nav_menu() for navigation
  • Inline with text using <span>
  • In text widgets or rich text editor
  • Before post meta elements like dates
  • On custom post types or taxonomies

The Dashicon will appear where you place the code!

Adjust Styling

The default icon size is 16px but you can easily style them:

/* Bigger size */
.dashicons {
  font-size: 32px;
}

/* Blue color */ 
.dashicons-heart {
  color: #0071bd;
}

Now you‘ve got the basics of adding Dashicons covered. But there‘s so much more you can do with them…

Creative Ways to Use Dashicons

While Dashicons may seem simple, there are tons of creative applications for them across your site:

Post Meta – Replace post meta text like author, date, tags with matching icons. It looks visually striking and saves space.

Shortcodes – Create easy shortcodes for your clients, e.g. [icon name=calendar] to add icons on the fly.

Custom Post Types – Use post type specific icons to better differentiate content types. Products can have a shopping bag icon for example.

Navigation Menus – Add icons next to menu items as visual indicators to improve navigation.

Login Page – Welcome users with friendly Dashicons right on the login form. It makes accessing the admin less intimidating.

Widget Headers – Icon headers are a great way to spruce up boring sidebars and footers.

Loading Indicators – Animate looping icons to indicate loading and other states. Way better than boring spinners!

Post Templates – Display post format icons like quotes, images, videos to better visualize different templates.

And these are just a few possibilities! There are tons of creative ways to enhance your site with Dashicons.

The key is picking icons that convey meaning and enhance the user experience visually. Don‘t use too many though – restraint is best when it comes to icons.

Pro Tips for Dashicon Implementation

Here are some insider tips from my years of Dashicon experience:

  • Always use a child theme before customizing to avoid losing changes.

  • Preload Dashicons font file using <link> or resource hints for faster load times.

  • Set aria-hidden="true" on icon HTML to improve accessibility.

  • For AMP, add Dashicons before initial content to pass validation.

  • Use SVGs for one-off icons you can‘t find in the library.

  • Animate and rotate icons using CSS animations and transitions.

  • Scale icons responsively using CSS media queries and viewport units.

Following these best practices will ensure your Dashicon usage improves the site experience.

Conclusion

There you have it, friend! Now you know all about Dashicons – from their origins to creative implementations to pro tips.

Here‘s a quick recap of what we learned:

  • Dashicons are purpose-built icon fonts for WordPress sites.

  • They offer huge advantages like speed, flexibility, and accessibility.

  • It‘s super easy to add Dashicons using the icon code.

  • With creativity, you can use Dashicons to enhance your site in unlimited ways.

  • Follow best practices for performance and accessibility when using them.

So don‘t settle for boring bullets and generic icons. With Dashicons, you can add a visual punch to your WordPress site in minutes!

I hope this guide showed you how much potential Dashicons unlock. Now it‘s time to put that knowledge into practice!

Start browsing the icon library and think of ways to implement Dashicons across your site. And let me know if you have any other questions!

Happy Dashiconing!

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