There are an extensive amount of roads you can take in web design, specifically in navigation. Here, we will talk about one specific navigation technique, tab-based navigation. If properly carried out, tabbed navigation can be very clean and organized within a web layout.
So what is tabbed navigation? Well, it is essentially a set of buttons most often set horizontally. Tabs generally follow numerous different styling guidelines. First, a tab set usually is attached to or slightly protrudes from a container, like in the example below. Also, notice how the open tab matches the background color of the container, and the other buttons are darker. This is another common styling guideline.
When you look at tabbed navigations, you will also notice many styling trends. First, many tabs will have rounded corners on buttons. This helps to create a clean look. Also helping to make a clean look is the use of separation between buttons. Most designs use space to separate buttons, but a bevel, single line, or background color contrast will also look nicely.
You will also see the use of hover effects, which is a common usability characteristic of the tabbed navigation. Gradients, radial and linear, help to achieve an impressve hover effect that brings dimension to the button that the user is selecting. Actually, you will notice that many tab buttons, selected or not, will use a slight gradient to add depth and demension to the button. This is a very simple detail often used to bring extra styling to many different user interface elements, such as buttons. The most important aspect in the design of tabbed navigation is that the active tab needs to be clear and obvious. This is what separates a tabbed navigation from an ordinary horizontal row of buttons or hyperlinks (thanks, Allen).
So, with all of that in mind, take a look at these 50 excellent tabbed-navigations shown below. Look for the trends, and follow the link to further inspect the usability of the tabbed navigation and how it looks with the rest of the design.
You may want to take a look at the following related posts:
- Designing Drop-Down Menus: Examples and Best Practices
- 50 Beautiful And User-Friendly Navigation Menus
- Navigation Menus: Trends and Examples
[Offtopic: by the way, did you know that there is a Smashing eBook Series? Book #1 is Professional Web Design, 242 pages for just $9,90.]
Good Tab Based Navigation
This tab set is beautifully styled. It uses a bevel to seperate tabs, large buttons, and clean typography with icons.
Another tab navigation that is clean because of rounded corners and use of a gradient to style.
Rounded corners and clean separation.
These tabs have beautiful styling. Notice the use of different colors and a drop shadow for separation purposes.
365 Days of Astronomy
Use of different colors and a drop shadow to separate the tabs not in use.
Wire & Twine
This is some excellent texture use with a clean layout.
A good example of tabs used in a module.
Good styling and usable because of size and separation.
This button set uses dark colors to fade out the tabs not in use, and a great border on the buttons.
Good gradient use and separation.
Tabs used with a sub navigation.
Apple Movie Trailers
Excellent styling and a strong example of a vertical tab layout.
Simple yet clean tabs.
Another vertical tab set up, this time used in a slider instead of content navigation.
College Park Church
Nicely styled tabs with good colors and a sub navigation.
One Button Mouse
Excellently designed buttons in a simple tab layout with good icons as a visual support.
Tabs used in a very content heavy module
Vertical tabs are used very rarely. But they can look good!
Good coloring and use of a border to differentiate the tabs from the body background.
Very clean tabs with a border.
This tab styling uses a gradient for a cool fading appearance, and a sub navigation is included.
A simple yet usable tab system with a sub navigation.
Ministry of Sound
On this tab system, a gradient is used to add depth to the selected button.
Use of rounded corners and a strong color difference to separate the tabs not in use.
A clean tab layout in a very nice design.
This tab system uses a different size, color, and styling to bring out the button selected.
A very simple and usable tab navigation.
A vertical tab layout with coloring.
A simple tab system. This one uses a large size as well as a different color to make the selected button pop.
A well-styled tabbed navigation.
The Mindset Game
Another very simple and easy tab navigation that works perfectly.
A little bit different tab setup that only styles the selected button.
The Invoice Machine
The navigation below uses a strong color difference, usable buttons, and borders to separate tabs from the rest of the design.
A good example of the background of the container flowing with the button.
This is very organized, and it appears to tab down instead of up like most.
Doesn’t get much more simple than this, but still a good example.
Nice styling that works perfectly with the rest of the layout.
Another very beautiful tab layout, notice the slight hover effect that can be seen on the second tab over.
This is one of the better examples of styling in this showcase because of the gradients to add dimension to the buttons and strong borders.
A very nice color harmony and contrast between the selected tab and the others.
Another button that uses a gradient to fade out, creating an awesome appearance.
Very simple but functional at the same time.
Jobs on the Wall
More brilliant styling, these tabs fit perfectly with the other elements on the site.
Very basic styling with strong colors and a sub navigation.
Here is another smooth and visually appealing tab navigation set.
Basic color-based styles with a pointer to show the selected tab.
Hoefler and Frere – Jones
Use of slanted sides instead of rounded corners makes this tab-based navigation interesting and unique.
Track My People
These buttons use gradients for depth, and a drop shodow to add demension to the tabs behind the selected one.
Brilliant button backgrounds that aren’t over the top make these tabs really great.
City of Grace
A good example of tabs that work nice colors into a usable layout.