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Navigation is one of the most essential elements of a website.
It provides a high-level overview of what visitors will find there (which also happens to be good for SEO). It helps visitors orient themselves so they can get around the site quickly. Plus, it enables them to take quick action like visiting their cart or searching the site.
As a web designer, you have to make sure the website navigation is designed so that visitors can get the most from it.
Today, we’re going to look at five things to keep in mind when you’re designing website navigation. We’ll include examples from BeTheme so you can see what these best practices look like.
How to Design Great Website Navigation (With Examples)
It’s easy to take the website navigation for granted. So long as it appears at the top of the site, contains the links to your most important pages, and is uncluttered, that’s all you need to worry about as a designer. Right?
Because navigation has such an important job to play, it has to be designed with care. Here’s what you need to know:
Tip #1: Make the Logo Prominent
The logo is essentially the digital face of a company. Not only does it represent them on their website, but it also represents them on other platforms — social media, online forums, email signatures, and so on.
Because of this, the logo plays a vital role in building brand recognition, trust, and loyalty.
To maximize the brand-building powers of the logo, it needs to be correctly placed, sized, and spaced in the header of the website. Here are some general rules to follow:
1. Link: Link the logo to the Home page.
2. Placement: Place it in the top-left corner whenever possible (according to research from NNG). If you want to place it in the center, make sure there’s a Home link in the top-left corner.
The BeBaker 3 pre-built site uses this alternative logo placement:
3. Size: Size it so that every detail is easy to see and read. The ideal sizes are 250px x 100px for rectangular logos and 160px x 160px for square ones, though it all depends on how much room you want to give your navigation links to breathe.
For instance, the BeDentist 4 logo is 166px x 60px:
Making the logo any bigger than that without increasing the font size of the header would create too much space around the navigation. So, it’s a bit of a game of balance. If you go with a bigger logo, make sure it doesn’t create so much space that your links drown in it.
Tip #2: Make the Header Sticky
Websites often have a lot to share with visitors. So as not to overwhelm them with content that reads like pages from a book or magazine, we design them in sections and with plentiful white space in between.
As such, web pages can grow quite long.
That’s not the problem, though. So long as the information shared is relevant, visitors will gladly comb through it. The issue is the effort required to scroll back to the top when they’re done — especially if they’re viewing the site on a smartphone.
The sticky header offers a solution to this problem. It doesn’t just stick to the top of the page, either. Watch how the title on the BePizza 5 one-page site transforms:
As the visitor scrolls down the page, the uniquely designed navigation bar shrinks up. Although it’s much smaller, it’s still usable.
As an alternative, you can use sticky left-aligned navigation as the Cottage 2 pre-built site does:
The logo is still in a good spot, the navigation links remain visible at all times, and it doesn’t take away too much space from the main content.
Tip #3: Highlight the Current Page the Visitor Is On
Even if you’re designing a smaller website, it’s always helpful to let visitors know what page they’re looking at.
The top of the page may provide clues as to where they are, but a visible marker in the navigation would offer a quicker reference point. And the more quickly they figure out where they are, the faster they can visit unexplored areas of the site.
There are several ways to highlight a visitor’s location in the navigation. It depends on what your branding and design style calls for.
With BeTheme, you have plenty of options. For instance, you can see here in the Be Ebook 3 navigation that the text color changes from black to blue for the current page:
Another way to add a subtle highlight to the navigation would be to place a colored line beneath the current page.
The Nursing Home pre-built site, on the other hand, uses a more prominent highlight style:
For a site targeted at older users, placing a block of color around the current page links makes a lot of sense as it’ll be impossible to miss.
Tip #4: Only Use Recognizable Icons
Iconography can be a useful element in web design. Usually, we pair it with text labels to visually communicate or explain what the particular point is about. However, we can also use icons as standalone elements in place of text labels.
Designers have to be careful when using standalone icons in the navigation, though. There are only a couple dozen icons that are universally recognizable — most of which have no place in the navigation.
The ones you can place up there can more or less be found in the BeDietShop pre-built site:
There are four navigation icons here:
- User profile for account settings
- Heart for likes or favorites
- Shopping bag for the cart/bag page
- Magnifying glass for search
There are some other icons you use in the navigation, but they tend to be on more specialized sites (like ecommerce and international).
Icons can provide a tremendous navigational shortcut. Just be careful which ones you use. If the majority, if not all, of your visitors, know what they are, it could make your navigation harder to use.
Tip #5: Organize Mega Menus, So They’re Easy to Peruse
Larger websites, in general, can take some time to organize. The website navigation needs to reflect this careful system of organization, too.
The mega menu has long been the navigation design used on websites with more than a dozen links and numerous levels of pages. And it’s effective, just so long as it’s well-organized.
To organize a mega menu, you can use design tactics similar to the ones you’d use to organize your web pages:
- Bolded headers
- Columns for related pages
- Images to highlight important pages
You can see some of these tactics used in the Betheme Store mega menu:
The headers and columns make it easier for visitors to scan through the various categories and pages available.
If a mega menu feels too cumbersome for your site, that’s okay. Websites with thousands of pages might be difficult to keep organized, even with a mega menu structure.
As an alternative, you can design a more traditional single-level navigation and then turn the search page into a navigational tool through the use of filters and sorting as BeClothingstore does:
This type of website “navigation” can reduce the overwhelm or anxiety people feel when too many options are displayed at once.
Make Navigation Work for Your Visitors with BeTheme
Without website navigation, visitors would have a lot of work to find pathways to the other information and conversion points on your site. That said, putting a row of navigation links at the top (or on the side) of your site isn’t enough.
Take time to design your navigation so that it improves the discovery of your content and speeds up visitor movement around your site.
The easiest way to get great-looking and highly usable navigation up and running is to start with one of BeTheme’s pre-built sites. Not only are they built using the best practices mentioned above, but they’re also customizable, so you can mix-and-match styles and make them totally your own!
This is a sponsored post on behalf of BeTheme
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A lot of people don’t realize just how flexible Photoshop is. Let’s do a whole ton of tips really fast on customizing the interface, tools and much more.
Here is the time stamp for the video above.
- 0:00 Intro
- 00:08 2 Tool bar Tips
- 00:17 2 tips Viewing 100% / Fit to view
- 00:27 2 KB Shortcuts
- 0:34 Layer Panel Thumbnails
- 00:50 Channels in Color
- 1:15 Interface UI size
- 1:29 Light and Dark Mode
- 1:40 Highlight Color
- 1:50 Cycle Screen Modes
- 2:03 Show Hide UI elements with KB
- 2:15 Change Unit of Measurement In/cm/px etc
- 2:30 Tips for guides
- 2:53 Change Adjustment sliders in Lightroom
Change the toolbar on the left. Click to make it two column or single column. Of course we can tear it out and have it floating.
If you want to 100%, double click the magnifying glass.
Double click the hand tool for fit to view.
By the way, Cmd/Ctrl+0 and Cmd/Ctrl+1also, will do that.
What about the layers Panel?
Choose the options menu. Go down to panel options and we can make these thumbnails larger. Click OK.
That also works with channels.
Speaking of channels, notice the red, green and blue are all black and white.
Go to preferences under preferences. Choose interface and we can select the show channels in color and now you can see they display red, green and blue. Cyan, magenta, and yellow, if you’re in CMYK mode,
Let’s go back to the interface.
Put it back in black and white because it’s a lot easier to work with masks. That’s why it’s set that way. We can change the size of the font for the UI. You can make it smaller or larger.
We can also change the colors of Photoshop itself.
Notice we can go back to the old school bright or choose different shades.
And of course we can change the highlight color to blue if you want. Default is back to our Gray.
Cycle through screen modes.
Hit the F key.
We’ll hide a lot of the interface.
Hit the F key once again we’ll give us full screen
F key again toggles us all the way back.
If you hit the tab key, you can hide everything except for the working area.
Tab key will bring back menu bar and panels.
Just want to hide the panels, hold the shift+tab.
Changing the unit of measurement.
Hit Ctrl/Cmd+R for rulers, then just right-click on the rulers. And now you can go between pixels, inches, centimeters, whatever you want.
Speaking of, while we’re here, this is how we get guides. You just drag the guides out.
If you want to change the direction of the guide, hit the alt (Win)/ option (Mac) key and you can go from horizontal to vertical. Of course, you can change at any time. Just grab it, Hold the Alt/option key. Drag it from the left to pull it out. To get rid of the guides, just drag them off.
One more bonus one. When we’re working inside of Lightroom, in the develop module, see the sliders. They’re not very long. You want to grab the Left edge of the interface window
Drag it out. That will elongate the sliders and give you more control over your adjustments.
So how many of those tips did you guys know? Let me know in the comments and also do you have more tips to add on how to display and view things in Photoshop? Add that into the comments as well. By the way, if you’re new, welcome to Photoshop Cafe.
Great to have you with us.
See you at the CAFE
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Everyone has a favorite cartoon character, but how did they first come to life? A lot of research and love goes into creating universally recognized characters.
So today we’re bringing you ten great tips for everything you need to know about making cool character designs, using amazing examples from Envato Elements and Envato Market.
1. Pick a Theme
Starting a good new character design is like looking at a blank canvas. It’s exciting, yet scary, and might even make you break out in hives. So the key to keeping your cool under pressure is to first pick a theme.
What do you want someone to see, feel, or understand immediately when they look at your characters? Allow that feeling to fuel the general makeup of your theme.
Begin by simplifying your theme into descriptive one-word answers. Words like western, retro, and futuristic all represent different time periods. On the opposite side of the spectrum, words like nerdy, cool, or villainous translate more to style and personality.
With the theme in place, make a list of details which help to reinforce the theme. Check off each one that applies perfectly to your original character art.
You can make cool character designs like this raccoon in a few steps with this guide:
2. Develop the Backstory
Close your eyes. Imagine your character as they go through each stage of life. From the moment they’re born into your world ’til their very last goodbye, what is the kind of life you expect your character to live?
A backstory is important to your original character (OC) design ideas. It includes all of the background information you need to know. To create one, dive into research of different places, cultures, professions, and more. Getting to know your character is like making a new best friend. You should know absolutely everything about them so that you’re able to translate the backstory into their design.
Here’s a basic list of questions that can help you through this process:
- Where do they live?
- Who are their parents?
- What is their job?
- Who is their best friend?
- What foods do they like?
- What’s their favorite color?
Everyone knows that SpongeBob SquarePants lives in a pineapple and works as a cook at the Krusty Krab. So you see the kind of clues you can get from these answers?
How would it affect your character if they were from the US as opposed to Spain? Or lived in different climates? No matter how silly you feel, answering these is one of the best OC design tips I can share. You can even add more questions to the list. If you need more help, start with a place you know.
3. Give Your Character a Name and Personality
Hello, my name is ___.
Your character is your baby. You literally birthed it from your creative consciousness only a few minutes ago, so it’s natural that you crown it with a fitting name.
Does your character look like a Sally, Joe, or Spot? Baby names are wildly creative these days, so why not be as creative with your character names? Research the origin, meaning, and correct pronunciations to discover one that truly fits.
And when you finally begin sketching them out, keep checking back to see if the name still connects. Maybe your character went from looking like a “Steve” to a “Stefan,” so if you need to, make sure there’s plenty of room available for a good name change.
People connect to personalities. Do you see yourself or someone you know in your characters? Just like the backstory, make sure you understand your character’s personality, from what they like to the kind of jokes they’d make.
At the end of the day, the more you know, the more it will ultimately translate into really great design. Make sure you think of names as a necessary stage in forming OC design ideas.
4. Pick a Species: Human, Animal, or Other?
Deciding whether your designs include a human or animal is a pretty big deal. Maybe they’re neither, but instead a hippy pink flower. Or maybe they’re a super-friendly futuristic robot like the one in this “how to design an OC” tutorial below.
Not every character has to be human or from planet Earth. And depending on your story or application, a human may not even be a good fit. Humans are pretty one-dimensional, after all. Consider the changes that come to mind once you pick a new species while thinking up character design ideas.
The great thing about animals is that they can be both cuddly and ferocious.
If you’re still not sure what species your character should be, simply create your own! For the purpose of getting the anatomy right, you may want to give them animal or human-like features just for convenience. In the end, though, all the other character design ideas are up to you, so have fun exploring to see what you can come up with.
5. Tall, Short, Slim, or Husky?
Have you ever noticed that sidekicks are usually smaller than the hero?
As unfair as it may seem, this purposeful juxtaposition lets the viewer see the main character as a more confident leader than their smaller counterpart.
A surprising way to add a distinct personality to your unique character designs is to explore different body types. Because society has already attached certain stigmas or traits to certain shapes and sizes, we automatically conclude things we know about the character by the way they look.
Here’s an OC design tip:
Draw a floating head separate from the character’s body. Then draw three different body types and line them up with the original head. Which one looks the best, and why?
This example should immediately show you the power of switching bodies. But feel free to go against the grain so that you don’t fall prey to stereotypes.
6. It’s All About the Mood: Colors
All colors have meaning. So choose wisely to set the mood for your unique character designs.
Usually we interpret bright colors as happy and energetic ones, while darker colors remain stubborn in their mystery. Red is a surefire option for both anger and passion. And green has huge ties to nature and money.
If you don’t have a color set for your original character art, cycle through all of them until you land on the one that works. Experiment with colors by also choosing ones you wouldn’t normally consider. Make a tough guy really pink, or give a businessman blue hair.
Stepping outside of the norm with your character design ideas won’t just help reinforce their look, but will also make them more memorable to your audience.
7. Create Dynamic Poses
Next on our list of OC design tips are poses. I know you want to keep things easy, but live a little. Aside from the standard front and back poses, try creating dynamic ones with a wide range of motion.
You can learn everything about the way a character feels or what they might be up to by paying attention to their body language. Apply what you’ve learned from their backstory in order to create dynamic poses.
A good place to start is by researching poses through photography. Generic stocks tell us a lot about what automatically comes to mind when a certain word is used. Relaxation, for instance, might show a person sitting back with their legs crossed, similar to the top left mouse from the above example.
Creating dynamic poses is especially important when submitting work professionally. Let your characters jump off the screen and into your client’s lap with the same kind of energy they see. These poses also show that you have incredible range and adaptability as an artist, so take advantage of dynamic poses to show off your remarkable talent!
8. Got Style? Clothes & Accessories
Love to shop? Save your money and apply your unique sense of style to your cool character design’s fashion!
You can tell a lot about a character by the way they dress. Every character ever created is universally known by their “uniform”. Not to be confused with just work clothes, your character’s uniform is the general attire you’ll see them wearing.
Construct each uniform with precision. Pay attention to small details like buttons, seams, and the overall tailoring. Maybe your character is pretty laid back in comfy clothes or prefers the opposite with a nice suit and tie.
This cute little gingerbread man, for example, uses simple lines of colorful icing for the outfit.
You can learn how to design an OC gingerbread man yourself with this tutorial:
When all else fails, keep it simple. After all, you’ll have to redraw and paint this character many more times, so you might want to pick an outfit that’s easy to recreate, no matter the angle.
9. Express Character Emotions
Make a silly face. Now draw it. What would your character look like with the same expression?
Expression is the ultimate communication tool in good character design. If you caught your character at any moment of the day, which expression would they be wearing on their face?
To learn more about character emotions, take it old school by trying out a traditional technique artists have used since the beginning of time. Sit in front of a mirror and make a dozen different faces that express a wide range of emotions. The eyes, brows, and mouth tend to showcase emotions pretty easily, so study these areas to determine the difference between each expression.
Learning how to draw an OC with emotions gets you one step closer to perfecting good character design. Before you know it, you’ll be able to create a variety of expressions in no time!
10. Test Alternative Versions
Good character design is all about experimentation. Maybe your character would look better with a hat or a completely different outfit. Use your initial character design ideas as a template so that you can test out alternative versions.
Consider getting a second opinion during this step. Sometimes we get so stuck looking at our own work that we can’t see what’s missing. Are the colors all right? Does the hairstyle need to be reworked? A second set of eyes might notice something you’ve overlooked.
Just like the example above, How to Create a Character Kit in Adobe Illustrator shows you how to design an OC with different options using the same template.
The other great thing about alternate versions is that you’re testing your original character art in different environments. See what seems to work best according to the right conditions.
Before you go, let’s take a quick look at everything we’ve learned. Use this list to check points off while creating your own unique character designs!
- Pick a theme: Use one-word descriptions that are visually clear.
- Develop the backstory: Know everything about your cool character designs as if they were a dear friend.
- Give them a name and personality: Pick a name that fits the style and personality of your characters.
- Pick a species: Decide whether to use humans or animals, or even create your own species.
- Determine the body type: Reinforce your character’s personality by making them tall, short, thin, or husky.
- Set the color scheme: Always pick colors that make sense.
- Create dynamic poses: Not just front and back. Try to show your character in their everyday life.
- Figure out their style: Laid back or corporate? Discover their fashion sense and experiment with style.
- Make characters emote: Learn how to draw an OC with emotions to make your unique character designs better!
- And test alternative versions: If something doesn’t fit, simply try something new. Always experiment until you land on the perfect design!
More Design and Illustration Resources From Envato Tuts+
If you want to learn more about illustration and find more OC design ideas and tips, check out these guides and articles from Envato Tuts+!
IllustrationCreating a Simple Kawaii Yeti With Basic Shapes in Adobe Illustrator
Character DesignHow to Create a Mascot
Affinity DesignerHow to Create a Funny Ice Cream Character in Affinity Designer
DrawingHow to Draw Disney Characters
IllustrationAnimal Illustration Inspiration: Character, Wild and Cute!
IsometricHow to Draw Isometric Art in Illustrator
IsometricHow to Create a Minecraft Character in Affinity Designer
ChristmasHow to Create a Reindeer Cartoon Character in Adobe Illustrator
Fan ArtHow to Create Three Star Wars Characters in Adobe Illustrator
Character DesignHow to Create a Cozy Winter Character in Adobe Illustrator