1st edition — by Patrick McNeil — Mar. 29, 2006
The Design Element
Atypical navigation isn't as much a design element as it is a structure
or way to build a site. It is all about concept and thinking outside the
box. You will find that all these sites make strong connections between the
way they are navigated and the overall point of the site. From selling car
roofs, to a portfolio of work, the navigation style is made to draw one into
the world the site is meant to describe. This is a powerful way to connect
to the users for sure.
One thing you will quickly notice about these samples it that they are mostly
flash based. In fact only
one of the sites
based. I do believe though that many of these interesting navigation patterns
could be adapted to more typical html/css based sites. They might not be
as animated, but the variety of overall structure could be used. There
is no reason every site has to have tabs at the top, or a list of links
on the left. Hopefully these sites will serve to inspire css based designers
to push the envelope and incorporate some more creative navigation techniques.
Three sites in particular make me wonder if the css folks couldn't draw
some inspiration from the flash world:
is a beautiful site. The right navigation is in fact html based,
but the content area is flash. I absolutely love the navigation, it is so original,
and yet it retains a very easy to use format.
is the second one I feel could easily inspire great css based work. There is
no reason the disk animations couldn't be replicated with animated gifs. The
end result though is new and fresh. Finally
In the Habit, the cluster of boxes could be created so easily with a sequence of divs and
a splash of css.
So why replicate awesome flash style stuff with css? The primary reason
I can think of is search engines. Content wrapped up in a flash site can't
get indexed. Beyond this there are times you just cant justify flash, but
some creative css would more then be acceptable.
I believe the real message her is to think. Those of us who use css more
then anything really need to step back and consider some creative uses of
the tools we have become accustomed to.
I must offer my one complaint though. Navigation such as this is generally
more difficult to use and often requires a learning process to discover how
the site is navigated. While this is great for creating atmosphere, and often
times earning the admiration of visitors, it isn't with out a cost. Those
requiring screen readers and the like will have a hard time with the site,
so carefully consider your audience before you set out on this path. The
only other down side is that sometimes we are just impatient, and wacky
navigation can just drive us nuts. So make it cleaver, but keep it clear
so we don't get confused and give up.