I tend to keep an eye on the UK’s most popular websites (Alexa is a good source for this data), as I know that my clients and their customers are likely to be familiar with their navigation features, tools and interfaces.
There is a risk that creating something ‘too new’ or ‘too different’ can give rise to negative user feedback, a recent case in point being Microsoft® Windows 8 lacking a Start button.
For most projects, delivery timescales are tight and there isn’t time to experiment with wild and fanciful navigation.
More importantly, users want to find things quickly. They don’t want to have to ‘learn’ how to use your site, it should be intuitive to them.