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Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites

Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites - Big, Bold Buttons

In the digital age, website visitors have come to expect instant gratification. They want to access content and accomplish tasks with just a click or two. Big, bold buttons help facilitate this by making key actions prominently visible and clickable.

Rather than hiding navigation in small text links or behind hamburger menus, today's top photo sites feature large, eye-catching buttons front and center. These buttons clearly indicate the site's core features and call visitors to action. For example, Flickr and 500px use giant "Upload" buttons to encourage users to share their own photos. Shutterstock and Getty Images have huge search bars so customers can instantly lookup images.

Implementing big, bold buttons provides benefits beyond improved usability. The large clickable areas areIdeal for mobile sites, making it easier for users to tap desired options on small screens. They also allow you to reinforce branding through button styles and colors. With minimal surrounding clutter, the buttons really pop as standout elements.

However, restraint is advised when applying this technique. You don't want to overwhelm the interface or detract too much from the visuals. As Smashing Magazine suggests, "Use them to highlight the two or three most important actions you want your visitors to take." Secondary options can be demoted to text links.

The photography platform Viewbug makes great use of bold buttons for key actions like "Compare" and "Refine", while additional utilities remain accessible in a menu. Clean, uncluttered interfaces like this allow the photos to shine.

It's also worth considering icon buttons in lieu of text. Icons take up less space while still being very identifiable if designed well. 500px uses icons for options like "Like", Pinterest employs visual buttons users recognize for core functions like "Pin" and "Save", and Viewbug includes camera icons to represent activities like "Upload" and "Edit".

Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites - Get Graphic with Icons

Icons have become an integral part of modern web and app design. They allow you to visually communicate ideas and actions in a way that transcends language barriers. For photo sharing platforms, graphic icons can enhance navigation and improve site usability.

Icons are able to convey meaning quickly. Viewers recognize common icons like a magnifying glass for search or a heart for like almost instantly. You don"™t have to spend time processing text to understand what an icon button does. Simple, familiar graphics allow site visitors to interact efficiently.

Using icons also provides space savings over textual links. Icons efficiently utilize the small footprint available, especially important on mobile. And they can reduce clutter and visual noise. Clean icon navigation integrated into a UI provides a streamlined experience.

Additionally, thoughtfully designed icons bring branding and visual flair. An iconic app like Instagram is easily recognizable by its camera logo and rainbow gradient. Sites can create branded icon sets that reflect their sensibilities. Custom graphics distinguish your site navigation and allow creativity.

However, icons should be applied judiciously. Icons work best for very common actions like search or share. Avoid obscure graphics that leave people guessing. Test icons with users to ensure comprehension. Provide hover-over text labels for clarity. And use icons alongside text for important options to avoid confusion.

When considering icons, focus on simplicity, consistency and meaning. Vox Media"™s product design team suggests, "œAn icon's design should be simple enough that it can be understood at a glance. Icons should be instantly recognizable." Repeating icon styles throughout your site supports learnability. And choose graphics that metaphorically connect to their purpose.

Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites - Make it Move with Animations

Motion draws the eye. Subtle animations and transitions can help highlight important elements and guide visitors through a photo website. Small flourishes of movement add delightful interest without overwhelming the visuals.

Animation on photo sites typically serves utilitarian purposes. Animated menus smoothly slide open rather than abruptly appearing. Search bars expand when activated to indicate they are live for input. Icons pulse to show they are clickable. Transitional animations provide visual continuity when moving between pages or content areas.

For example, 500px uses elegant animations to indicate when menu options can be interacted with. As you hover over categories, the text fades to black to signal engagement. Minimized sidebars slide out when opened. The overlaid lightbox viewer slides up smoothly from the bottom. These subtle motions improve usability.

Other sites incorporate more conspicuous, captivating animations that ambiently loop in the background. This adds dynamism and visual interest to anchor the content. Photography blog Fstoppers implements parallax scroll effects on header images as you move down the page. The depth and motion keep things visually engaging.

Travel site Matador Network takes it a step further with animated SVG illustrations that playfully move around as you scroll. The whimsical drawings of cameras, airplanes, and landmarks complement travel stories with fitting motion. Animated elements like these create fun reveal moments to discover.

When applying motion, restraint keeps the focus on photographs. As UX Planet notes, "Animation supports user experience when it is thoughtful and intentional." Aim for simplicity aligned to goals like indicating state changes or directing attention. Allow users to disable animations if preferred. And keep load times snappy by limiting file sizes and processing requirements.

Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites - Off the Beaten Path Navigation

Beyond standardized navigation patterns, some photography sites dare to break convention and chart new territory. Clever implementations of offbeat navigation design can capture attention while providing fresh interaction mechanisms. Though risky, unique approaches build brand personality when executed thoughtfully.

Photography blog DPReview intrigues visitors with an unconventional diagonal slide-out menu. Rather than top or side navigation, options cascade diagonally from the top left corner when activated. The unexpected presentation piques curiosity while delivering utility. The menu takes advantage of unused space and provides large touch targets ideal for mobile.

Design studio Huge Inc. discusses their creation of triangular menu panels for dining app Reserve. The unusual shape added character while fitting the brand identity. Though unfamiliar, Huge found the angled panels easy to interact with. Offbeat elements can become intuitive when affordances clearly indicate their use.

Symmetrical Pixel photographer Daria Nepriakhina implemented a round navigation menu featuring options arrayed in a circle. The ring design provides access to portfolio sections and pages in an artistic layout. The circular format meshes well with the graphic artistry of the site while facilitating navigation.

UX Planet highlights round navigation menus as a trend, touting benefits like space efficiency and finger-friendly touch targets. Though non-standard, circles and curves align with natural gestures. Radial menus can feel surprisingly seamless.

Of course, novelty interfaces risk confusing users initially. Uncommon patterns require learning. Yet they also provide the payoff of delightful moments of discovery. As Smashing Magazine states, "Breaking design patterns piques interest and curiosity."

The key is signaling how new components work through visual cues and affordances. Animated motions showing how elements react when hovered or tapped help users understand behaviors. Clear signifiers reduce the learning curve.

Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites - Unexpected Interactions

In the realm of web design and user experience, the element of surprise can be leveraged to create delight. While novel interactions carry risks, when thoughtfully implemented they can captivate users and encourage deeper engagement. The unexpected disrupts habitual usage patterns and forges new neural pathways. As designer Val Head puts it, "Interfaces that incorporate unexpected interactions provide the user with the gift of surprise and delight when they discover them. This tickles the reward centers of the brain, leaving the user with a positive emotional impression."

Some examples of unexpected interactions include hover effects that produce non-standard responses. For instance, rather than simply highlighting menu text on hover, the options could scale up or slide out to literally meet the user's cursor. Or icons could transform into entirely different graphics that represent their utility in an imaginative way. Even small surprises like cursor changes on hover stand out against the ubiquity of standard interactions.

Of course, new behaviors need affordances to teach users how they work. But once learned, the unpredictability can be exciting. As UX Collective writer Tolgahan Yurt notes, "The unexpected interactions firstly produce engagement by triggering the orienting reflex and consequently delight by activating the reward circuitry." Animation and subtle visual cues allow users to intuitively grasp unconventional interfaces.

Photography site Ramotion implements clever hover effects on their work samples. As you move over a project thumbnail, the image flips down as if on an invisible hinge to reveal a descriptive caption behind it. The motion hints at hidden depths within each piece. When designing for surprise, animations and transitions allow you to communicate interactivity.

Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites - Custom Cursors for Clickability

Far from being just a utilitarian pointer, the cursor acts as the primary tactile interaction between user and interface. Consideration of this subtle detail provides opportunities to refine clickability and brand sites with custom pointer personalities.

Default cursors like arrows and hands get the job done, but fall short on flair. In contrast, an imaginatively designed mouse pointer makes a statement and forges connection. As designer Leo Natsume puts it, "œA cursor with personality can lend emotion to interactions." Custom cursors demonstrate that thought was put into the finer details of user experience.

Whimsical, bespoke cursors provide glimpses into a brand"™s sensibilities. Design studio Huge gave music app Cosmic Rhythm a cursor resembling a galactic light saber swirling to the beat. This creative pointer meshes with the futuristic branding and audio-centric utility.

Travel site Culture Trip implemented location-themed cursors like chopsticks over China and tortillas over Mexico. The region-specific graphics add flair while enhancing sense of place. Photographer Andrii Bondarenko created a nature-inspired cursor set with options like leaves, flowers and butterflies. The organic shapes complement his landscape imagery.

Beyond visual design, tailored cursors can clarify utility. Hand icons make clickable elements recognizable on ecommerce sites. Precise crosshairs enhance selection tasks requiring accuracy. Even simple color coding can associate cursors with certain actions - blue for create, green for share, etc. Custom pointers reinforce workflows.

Yet legibility remains paramount. Overly ornate or quickly moving cursors risk becoming distracting or difficult to track. Clean, recognizable shapes tied logically to actions optimize UX. Animations should subtly indicate status rather than cause confusion.

Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites - Scrap the Standard Menu

For photo sharing sites seeking to break the mold, ditching templated navigation opens new possibilities. Standard menus and ubiquitous hamburger buttons, while functional, lack imagination. Scraping conventions and crafting a custom experience aligns with photography"™s creative spirit.

Standard web and app interfaces lean on accepted patterns users already know. Deviation risks disorientation. But familiarity also breeds disengagement. Overexposure dulls interest in static, cookie-cutter components. As Backlinko notes, "œNavigational elements that are predictable fail to engage users."

So scrap the standard menu and activate new neural pathways! Of course, usability remains vital. Affordances must communicate function. But freed from the inherent limitations of conventions, bespoke navigation can better serve goals like:

Reflect Brand Identity

Navigation presents prime real estate to exhibit brand vision. Going custom allows total creative freedom rather than working within existing molds. Photography site ALPHA 7 manifests their bold identity through a thick diagonal toolbar running the screen"™s height. This dramatic element makes a statement aligned with the edgy aesthetic.

Suit Content Structure

Rather than forcing content into rigid navigation standards, custom solutions can map perfectly to the information architecture. Photography journal Aint Bad crafted category tabs that curve across the header to echo their grid layout. The fluid design harmonizes with the flow of galleries below.

Enhance Mobile Experience

Off-the-shelf menus cram desktop conventions onto small screens. Scraping assumptions opens possibilities better suited for mobility. Photography app Fleksy replaced cumbersome menus with an innovative functional keyboard for easy access to utilities via gestures.

Improve Accessibility

Standard components often fail to provide accessible experiences for those with disabilities. Bespoke designs allow concerns like screen reader compatibility, color contrast, and keyboard navigation to be built in from the start rather than retrofitted.

Don't Be So Square: Creative Navigation Designs for Photo Websites - Dare to Divert conventions

Forging new territory always involves risk, yet charting original paths often yields rewards. In web design, departing from standard navigation conventions can reap benefits for user experience when executed thoughtfully. Though templates provide familiarity, scrappy creativity and custom crafting better serve users in many cases.

Photography, with its ethos of imagination, seems especially suited for tasteful subversion of design norms. As Smashing Magazine states, "breaking conventions requires a willingness to leave the well-trodden path and explore the unknown. It takes courage to defy the status quo." But the payoff can be enhanced engagement, usability, and brand alignment.

Subtle subversion adds character without much user disruption. For example, navigation tabs or menus that employ rounded corners, unusual fonts, or atypical colors steer clear of stark uniformity without impeding function. Whimsical cursor designs bring harmless flair. Even small details like hover animations that react unconventionally manage to surprise and delight while remaining operable.

Bolder diversion risks confusing users initially but forges new neural pathways with some adaptation. Horizontal scroll navigation buck trends by presenting a unique mechanism to traverse content or options. Yet horizontal motions align with natural screen swiping gestures. similarly, innovative radial menus utilizing circular or triangular layouts provide new presentation while maintaining usability through clear visual hierarchy.

Of course, completely breaking the intuitive concepts users understand about web interfaces jeopardizes adoption. But many standards like hamburger menus, dropdowns, and templated grids were themselves novel at one point before entering the canon through successful implementation.

Photographer Daria Nepriakhina discusses her circular navigation menu: "The main risk was that users would find it confusing. But I provided cues about usage through motion and hover states. Soon people caught on and appreciated the unique style."

As UX Collective author Tolgahan Yurt advises, "Subverting design conventions requires care to avoid alienating users. Novel interactions must build intuition through cues like animation and clearly defined boundaries. Then innovation can delight."

While diverging from standards has risks, for photo sites seeking distinction, imagination in navigation can align well with brand identity when thoughtfully implemented. As photographer Andrii Bondarenko, known for organic cursors, states, "Conformity leads to generic experiences, while character stems from craftsmanship. I aim for users to sense the care put into details like cursors."

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