Being an admitted design geek, I’ve always appreciated observing the graphics on ATM screens. I’ve noticed that the coolest ones were always those that had buttons jumping off the screen as if they could be literally pressed. An impressive set of ATM buttons once almost convinced me to pay a $3.50 surcharge. While not as important as the numbers on the screen, a well-designed set of graphics for a user interface can still really enhance a customer’s experience.
The same thing applies to web design layouts. Many folks know that good layouts tend to “pop” off the page or in this case screen. Flat is not a look that designers go for. Fortunately, Photoshop comes with many easy to use styling effects that are great tools for adding depth to your design. When used strategically, effects such as the drop shadow, inner glow, outer glow, bevel, stroke, gradients can really elevate a design to a whole new level.
One of the simple things that I appreciate about Photoshop is playing around with the style settings. With a few adjustments, you can easily create an unexpected effect that works for your layout. Finding a style settings that fits your circumstance is very much a part of the creative process. It’s not whether you apply a drop shadow, it’s how you apply it that matters. Personally, I tend to avoid the standard default settings because, after all, they’re called default for a reason and are used commonly. By adjusting style settings such as opacity, strength, size and blending modes, you can really achieve some cool results.
Something we do commonly in our studio is lower the opacity settings for many layer styles. It makes everything more subtle and in my opinion, classy. Don’get me wrong. There are definitely times when the full opacity and strength approach is needed. But the best layouts will still have subtle accents to back it up. These are the effects that the mind may not notice if present, but will miss if absent. It’s been said that sometimes the best effects are those that a person isn’t fully aware of. Adding these subtle effects whether its an inner glow or a bevel, are simple but very effective ways to improve the presentation of your website. Just remember that in order to make the best use of them, you don’t have to use the settings you’re given.