The evolution of web design has changed significantly since the creation of the internet. Back then, a Geocity webpage could be as simple as a brochure, using a multi colored background and gaudy text effects. It is interesting to note that with the progress of technology, websites have become more complicated; codes come into play and incredible design techniques are produced.
People noticed its power; the power of the internet has advanced so rapidly that there is a boom in this industry. Websites become more visually compelling with effects becoming more eye-popping.
Dissection of Web Layout
These days in web design, the focus of creative layouts is to draw the attention of users. The current state of most web pages is designed to cater to the eye of readers where readers would start scanning with fixations from the upper left of the page. This is evident even from the early days of web design where it is similar to today's conventional wireframe of a webpage shown below.
By dissecting both old and new sites, we can spot similarities between the two layouts. The master heads, navigations and content are placed at the same areas.
Characteristics of a Less Conventional Website
The Undefined Grid
Using a grid layout is a great way of displaying your content and images neatly. However, breaking away from the strict grid layout is a great way of establishing a contemporary and fresh non-typical website layout. Even though unconventional websites do not follow the suggested grids, they are still able to achieve usability, allowing users to glance and read the page at ease.
It can be a little hard to achieve usability with undefined grid layouts, but if you are able to pull it off, it would definitely give your site an element of fun and energy.
Great Splash of Images
Filling the background with a professionally taken photo enhanced by skillful photo editing, makes the site look like a full-screen flash site. Images play a very important role here because they are huge and they almost fill the full screen of the browser. They should be visually appealing and/or impactful to the eye.
Overlaying the image with a translucent box for your content helps the reader to read them more clearly.
Most of the time, horizontal scrolling occurs in sites with less content and more images, such as photography portfolio sites.
Slim Vertical Layout
This is a less popular option when trying to be unconventional. The main navigation and content is placed right after each other in a straight row. This means that the user’s eye will be scanning the page within the vertical zone of this layout. Such a layout should be designed carefully, as the page would get very long if it is content heavy. Scrolling too much is not advisable.
Showcases- Bringing the Modernist Layout into Web
This site contains rich illustrations, filling up the whole screen of the browser. There is no typical navigation bar sitting on top or at the side of the screen. Its navigation is placed at the top or bottom right of the screen and navigation in this site is almost linear. Scrolling up and down the site gives you the feeling as if you are looking through a brochure-like website.
Bada Bing’s site is also uses an image that fills the whole browser. The interesting placement of the main navigation beside the logo, gives visitors easy access to other pages. Its homepage consist of an interesting animation – the image moves vertically and its content moves horizontally. Although it still uses some elements of a common web layout, the positioning of content, images and navigation makes this web page interesting and experimental.
Although Kustaa Saksi's site follows a grid-like layout, it still looks rather experimental because the navigation is camouflaged with images. Users are required to rollover the images in order to find out what the link is about. The overall layout is neat, simple with a hint of the modern look.
The navigation bar in Camellie's portfolio site is placed at the bottom, somewhat hidden in the beautiful and detailed illustration. Of course web design experts may argue that the navigation is the gate way to the other pages of your site and it should be placed at a prominent area. In this case, it is the total opposite. In fact, the illustration helps to lead the eye to the navigation at the bottom left.
Work At Play
It is quite impossible to define the layout of this site. The navigation is placed within the typography on the left. One may not know how to navigate through the site at one glance, but with the help of the floating blue bubble, it tells the user what they’re clicking on.
This site uses the layout interface of Photoshop. The homepage is not scrollable except for the center column. Although grids are quite evident here, it is an interesting way of displaying information because it has adopted the look of a print media for the web.
Only 2 Designers
This site has the characteristics of a slim vertical layout. The width of the white canvas does not expand when contents are loaded within that area. Its contents are concentrated within the white spaces, and no scrolling up and down is required. Such rare layouts should be designed with care, as the page will get very long when content gets heavy.
FM & M Management
With the advancement of scripting, more websites are starting to look like it was done with flash. This site consists of a professionally taken image, with simple graphic elements overlaying on top of the image. Subtle animation and choice of colors, gives this site a contemporary look.
The use of 3D graphics gives a futuristic look to websites. Typography, the choice of color and the play of lighting, plays a big part to disguise a simple table in this layout.
Design Your Life is a photography showcase website where users scroll vertically. Scrolling horizontally engages the users differently, providing a different viewing experience to them.
Drop down menus are a great way to hide links when there are too many of them. This site contains interaction cues to help the user to look for these hidden links in the page. It uses an uncommon table layout that is expandable when users click on the arrows.
Leg Work Studio
Line art is the main focus in this website. Pages animate vertically in a swift action when users click on the links. Although it uses traditional style of illustration in all the pages, animation is used effectively to help enliven the site.
Towards An Experimental Future
Through the years, professionals have set certain standards for designing the web. However, with the recent rapid outburst of designers and professionals in the creative industry, web design principles are gradually altered. This alteration is accepted by users. And this acceptance will modify users’ knowledge of interactive cues and habits of surfing the net. Who knows, going experimental might be the next hot trend on the web.