Create your own navigation bar in iWeb

Adam Berenstain
27 January, 2010
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You might think you can’t fully customise iWeb’s themes. You can, but it’s not easy. It involves making extensive changes to documents inside the iWeb application package, and even if your original design works in the current version of iWeb, there’s no guarantee that it will survive the next upgrade.

But if you can build the navigation bar in the guide below, you’ll be able to radically change the standard iWeb pages into something uniquely expressive. Note that iWeb’s limitations make it tricky to globally re-theme pages with the application’s built-in tools. For example, not all pages re-theme quite the same way and new podcast and blog entries may have to be re-edited to match the custom appearance. The simpler your changes, the easier it is to adapt even complex pages to suit your new look. The examples below are meant to be basic prototypes to give you an idea of how to approach the task of truly personalising your pages with relative ease. So let’s get started.

1. Add pages Select File -> New Site and choose the White theme. Start with a Blank page, then select File -> New Page to add another Blank page, and then add a Photos and Movie page, and any other pages you want. Double-click the two blank pages in the leftmost sidebar and rename them Welcome and About Me. Delete the black hairline at the top of each page, but leave each page’s placeholder headline.

Select View -> Show Inspector. In the Page inspector click the Page button and uncheck “Display navigation menu,” and repeat for all pages.

2. Create a navigation menu Select your Welcome page and choose Insert -> Text Box and resize it to a vertical rectangle. Drag the Welcome page icon from the sidebar into the text box––the word “Welcome” will appear at the top of the box and automatically link to the Welcome page. Click the text box so the cursor appears, and press the Return key to move the cursor to the line below “Welcome.” Drag the next page’s icon from the sidebar into the text box and repeat until all page names appear in the box.

The key to building your own nav bar is turning off iWeb’s default navigation menu in the Inspector.

To style the text, select it and choose options from the Format -> Font -> Show Fonts menu. For the example shown here, I added a space between each line and made the text larger and bold. Drag the text box to the upper left of the Welcome page when you’re done.

3. Add decoration and headlines While still on the Welcome page, choose Insert -> Shape -> Oval. Change the oval’s colour by selecting it and clicking the Graphic inspector’s Fill swatch; then change its Stroke to None. Drag the shape’s handles until you have a tall, wide oval.

Drag the oval over your menu (it will partially disappear off the page). Then, with the oval selected, choose Arrange -> Send to Back, and position it behind the text. Adjust its colour for legibility.

4. Customize background colors Using the Page inspector’s Layout button, select Color Fill for the Page and Browser Backgrounds and click their swatches to choose new colours. When selecting a new Browser Background color, click the magnifying glass in the Colors window, then click the oval you created in order to match both colors and tie the page together. You don’t have to do this, but matching colors in such a simple design looks elegant. Next, type a greeting in the page’s placeholder headline and style the text if you like.

5. Create an image map Instead of using shapes, as described above, you can also construct a navigation bar from a photograph. Objects in the photo will serve as links to pages or main sections of your site. For this image map technique, choose a picture containing multiple distinct objects, such as the faces in a group portrait. Select View -> Show Media, then drag a picture onto your Welcome page. Select Format -> Mask to crop the picture to your liking.

Invisible shapes linked to your pages can turn any picture into an image map.

To make sections of your image clickable, add a shape to the page, then resize it to fit on top of an object in your photo. Choose a shape that fits the object best––ovals for faces, rectangles for buildings, and so on. In the Graphic inspector, change the shape’s Fill and Stroke to None, and then copy and paste the shape on top of other objects in the picture and resize as needed. Be sure to add as many shapes as you have pages or major sections in your site.

Select each shape and check Enable as Hyperlink in the Link inspector’s Hyperlink window. Choose One of My Pages as each link’s destination, and then choose a different page for each shape to link to.

6. Apply to all pages Copy your custom Welcome page elements by choosing Edit -> Select All. Hold the Shift key and click the placeholder headline to deselect it, then choose Edit -> Copy. Select your About Me page, then choose Edit -> Paste. Repeat for all pages. Note that you’ll need to resize elements on the Photos, Movie, and multimedia pages to accommodate your new menu bar or image map. And depending on what technique you use, page and browser background colours may also need adjustments.

However you do it, replacing iWeb’s nav bar with your own original design will give you many of the benefits of a new theme without much of the hard labour.

[Adam Berenstain is a freelance writer in upstate New York.]

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