Is Navigation Useful? Jakob Nielsen posed that question in an Alertbox article from 2000. He came to the conclusion that “users look straight at the content and ignore the navigation areas.” In essence, navigation is not as important as most designers make it out to be.
That was a major paradigm shift for me. I always thought that the main navigation would be one of the most important elements of a website. I couldn’t believe it, so I set off to look for minimalist websites that didn’t use navigation. Sure enough, I found plenty.
Thanks to reader Leon Paternoster who got me started down this path. After a flurry of emails and a couple of all nighters I even redesigned my own site (now with less, less, LESS!). Of course I had to purge nearly 600 posts and change platforms, but I would guess that you could go sans-menu with much less effort.
Screenshots and commentary
Click a thumbnail to view a larger screenshot and additional commentary. Links below.
- Fresh Squeezed Stories By Edward Pistachio
When you land on this site you will be struck by two things. The beauty of the logo and then then quickly thereafter, the content. It's a site filled with stories, so it should be easy to read. And it is!
- The company website of iA
iA has a unique and highly usable website. There are a few navigational elements below the main content that make up a main menu of sorts. This site is very inspiring and well wortha look.
- The personal blog of Daniel Saxil-Nielsen
This site is left aligned with a big left margin. There are some navigational elements in the sentence above the header graphic. Content is laid out in a pleasing and easily scannable two column format.
- The online journal of Michael Heilemann
Nice wide margins and highly readable text area. There is a curious system of moving through the older posts (click the Older link). The author gets in a little about information towards the footer and then links to relevant areas of the site.
- Single-post-per-page personal website
This site is wonderfully minimalistic. It does have a few navigational elements. Great use of whitespace. I would, however, like to see a meaningful about page. Um, maybe the name of the author?
- Personal Portfolio of Marius Roosendaal
Another great portfolio site with all the images up front. The contact form is on the home page, as it should be for a freelancer.
- Digital Web Portfolio of Brett Nyquist
With a portfolio site you expect the gallery to be right up front with big huge pictures. Brett doesn't let us down. The only navigational element is the Contact/vCard buttons at the top, which is probably what most people visiting the site would be looking for.
- An art direction and graphic design portfolio
The contact information is right up top. This portfolio site is especially great because the images are HUGE. It's exactly what you would want if you were thinking about hiring them.
- The personal blog of Garrett Murray includes everything you'd expect
Okay waaay down at the bottom there is a menu BUT it's not a major design element (which is why it has been featured here). The links to social sites are incorporated into the content rather than as separate links.
- Plain and simple without being plain and simple
This personal blog ignores the temptation to fill empty space with widgets and archives and, you guessed it, a nav menu. The restraint really paid off.
- This site communicates a lot of information in a beautiful way.
All that text and no menu. Everything is still readable and clear. And the conference is sold out. Does that tell you anything?
- This business website puts all the relevant information up front
Chama Inc. has even managed to get their bios and portfolios on a single page. A lot of design firms struggle to simplify their works with this level of skill.
- 80/20 makes a big impression with very little
This single page site completely summarizes a whole company without the use of a menu. I bet it wasn't easy.
- Landing page for the Designing for the Web book.
This site features complete focus on the product, which is exactly what a landing page should do. The difference is that this landing page looks GREAT.
- The portfolio site of freelance graphic designer Jamie Gregory
The contact information is right up front where you would need it if you were going to hire Jamie. The only navigational element on the site allows you to flip through the portfolio.
Visit the sites
The Binary Bonsai
Inca Un Calator
Five Simple Steps