Navigating the Navigation: Designs for the Innovative

Content is essential to a web site’s success, but it’s not the first thing that visitors see. A site’s visual design is an extremely important factor that can determine visitor retention and loyalty; a poor design will make it forever difficult to attain a reader base. As a short case study, consider the differences between Kountry Kraft and GatetoGarage, both furniture retailers. Which do you believe performs greater online?  While one does draw better traffic figures, the other is significantly more successful at drawing in conversions and generating sales.  Share your thoughts about the two in the comments.

However, a design that balances familiar fluidity with niche-appropriate innovation can work wonders.   Trying out newer web design tactics like innovative navigations and responsive web designs (the top 15 here) can also help distinguish your brand from others. Content is important, but imagine this: If you go to two restaurants with equal food quality, one restaurant with a cleanly creative interior and the other’s interior dully generic, which one are you more likely to return to? With a plethora of sites on the web offering quality content, an engaging web site design is what could separate a site from its content-rich competitors.

The following designs are great example of innovative web site design done right. They’re sleek and engrossing without appearing overly glossy. They offer a wide variety of features, but not to the point of overwhelming visitors with scattered content. Whether you’re seeking to design a corporate or personal site, use these as a basis for your next web site design project:

Second Story (corporate)

Second Story

Second Story’s page makes innovative use of scrolling. Visitors can scroll separately between the three columns on the home page, specifying which column they’d like to scroll by highlighting their mouse over it. With one tab highlighting the studio’s logo and “About Us”, another showcasing recent company news, and the third showing blog snippets, it’s a smart way to pack ample information in one page cohesively.

Inzeit (retailer)


While some may label Inzeit’s home page as “too modern”, the Danish digital agency showcases the various products they sell in exciting climatic form, with each scroll highlighting a new product. Right and left clicks are not necessary on if you just want to check out the basic products. It’s a trendy method of keeping browsing stress to a minimum. Detailed information on a given product is unveiled by clicking an arrow to the left. If you are seeking to design a site with product displays in mind, is a quality example.

Denise Chandler (portfolio)


These days, in order to increase job opportunities, many are taking to building portfolio sites that showcase their resume and work examples. Denise Chandler’s site is a great example of what users in the portfolio niche should aim for: playful (yet very readable) fonts that showcase bursting colors and background, with a unique theme. In Chandler’s case, she uses an amusement park. She mentions in her nicely located “About Me” section that she lets her “quirky flag fly”, a fact that will appeal to many clients wowed by her quirky yet effective site design. Matching your design with an aspect of your “About Me” section can be an extremely effective strategy.

ASCII Arena (niche-driven)


ASCII Arena is a fantastic example of niche-specific innovation. Focusing on ASCII art, a form of graphic design using characters from the traditional ASCII Standard from the ’60s, this site takes advantage of a nifty retro feel and ASCII-inspired font to make its demographic clear. As much of its content is crowd-sourced, any niche-specific site seeking user submissions should make sure to integrate their niche creatively within their site design. Even if it’s something as simple as implementing a baseball bat for a site column on a baseball fan site, it shows your passion to fellow fans.

Minimal Monkey (blog)


Most people don’t equate innovation with minimalism on web templates, but sites like Minimal Monkey show that there can be a co-existence. Despite lacking search functionality – which should be a must on all sites – Minimal Monkey does a great job of immediately exposing visitors to their most recent blog posts, with huge colored columns that show the post, its description, and its date published. Nothing else but that, and for sites tailored to minimalists it does just the job just right.

The Kennedys (personal)


This site resembles a fusion between a futuristic nightclub and old-fashioned diner. Needless to say, it makes a mark. The plethora of various pictures in the background could have been distracting, but by making the entry to various pages clear via moving images and flashing neon-like colors, this site prevails as an eye-catching stunner. Inside, a more traditional blog format manages to blend daring innovation with traditional familiarity, a combination that usually results in site design success.

Shane Patrick Jones is a CRO and Conversion Design expert who loves to share his inspirations and opinions on all design related matters.  Follow Shane on Google+ and Twitter.