web navigation

18 noteworthy examples of unusual web navigation design

When it comes to website navigation, I’m a traditionalist. I don’t think it’s something that should be messed around with, unless there’s a very good reason for doing so.

The fundamentals of web navigation haven’t changed at all. Obvious labels, clear scent trails, a lack of clutter, and good usability are all essential. Navigation should be obvious, prominent, persistent, and not obfuscated in any way. And as with most things, fancy design should be stomped on if the user experience is compromised. 

However, I love innovation, experimentation and evolution, and it is perhaps an opportune time to rethink our ideas about web navigation, given the rise of smartphones and tablets, as well as better tools, such as HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery.

In the past year or so I’ve noticed that more and more websites that have unusual forms of navigation, and I thought I’d collect a bunch of examples to show you the art of the possible.

It’s worth pointing out that I don’t think all of these work brilliantly. I’m including examples that are different and distinct, or that are very much in keeping with the rest of the web experience, whether good or bad. You can decide for yourself. 

Some of these might be filed under ‘trying too hard’. As with everything, I think it’s about finding the right fit for your site, your content, and your audience.

So then, let’s prepare to navigate! Click on the screenshots to visit the websites, so you can see how they work.