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Showcase Of Beautiful Vertical Navigation Designs

Go to any website and you’re guaranteed to find one thing: a navigation menu. Navigation menus enable visitors to move from page to page; without them, we would have no way to conveniently explore websites. Perhaps this is why designers, information architects, usability researchers and user experience specialists invest so much time and resources into devising aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly navigation systems. [Links checked March/03/2017]

Website navigation menus generally come in one of two orientations: vertical and horizontal. Horizontal navigation menus display items side by side. Vertical navigation menus stack items on top of each other. In this post, we highlight some remarkable vertical navigation menus, for your inspiration.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Showcase Of Beautiful Vertical Navigation Designs Link

The vertical navigation in this portfolio website is simple and clean in looks yet robust in functionality and interaction. Clicking on “Web,” “Print,” or “Identity” filters the thumbnails on the right, and clicking the “About” menu item shifts the navigation to the right, making way for content on the left.

Riot Industries

Here, you can see one of the benefits of vertical navigation: it allow for highly compact and modular menus that appear distinct from the rest of the layout. Sitting in the top-left corner, just below the website’s name, the menu is one of the first things visitors see (at least with left-to-right languages).

Village Version

This portfolio has a clean and simple navigation design that leaves the visitor to focus on the vibrant content to the right.


A quite distinctive, original navigation menu with five different typefaces. A bit unusual navigation for a crowdsourcing community.


Navigation menu on the right side of the layout for a change: although the design is basic, almost rudimentary, it works well and is easy to navigate. Navigation menus do not have to look outstanding.


This vertical navigation design is elegant and functional. Hovering over a menu item triggers a horizontal animation.

Auberge de l'ιll

This website’s vertical navigation sits right in the middle of where the visitor is focusing when the page first loads. Active menu items are denoted by a pointing hand.

The Hipstery!

The navigation design for the Maryland Institute College of Arts demonstrates another advantage of vertical navigation: it shows hierarchy and allows you to group menu items without resorting to drop-down menus, whose sub-menus are displayed only when the user mouses over an item.

Research at MICA

The vertical navigation design on this website is positioned right below the website’s name, making it prominent without drawing attention from the large rotating banner in the top-right.


The vertical navigation here shows yet another benefit: being able to accommodate more menu items.

From The Couch

The portfolio of art director Nick Jones has vertical navigation towards the middle of the page. The menu summarizes his work and has an interactive component that scrolls the menu up and down based on the user’s mouse movements. When an item is clicked, the menu shifts to the left, making room for the corresponding content.

Nick Jones

This dark vertical navigation for Noam Design leaves the menu option for the contact form permanently open.


The vertical navigation on this website is grouped into two categories, giving users the ability to quickly find the link to the page they’re interested in.

The Music Hall

The vertical navigation in this portfolio reflects the traditional table of contents in a book. Menu items are categorized in two groups.


This simple vertical navigation is presented right below the website’s name, giving it a prominent position in the layout without taking away attention from the main content area. A dark gray background denotes active menu items, with an arrowhead pointing at the content, encouraging natural and effective eye flow.

Tailored pixels

Mellasat Vineyard’s vertical navigation menu is a modular, one-piece design element that also contains the website name and logo. The menu is a focal element here.

Mellasat Vineyard

The navigation in this elegant, minimalist, typography-based portfolio is a central element and contributes to the overall layout. The menu items are repeated on the right in a larger font.


This menu creatively weaves in the description and purpose of the website.

Debbie Millman

This interactive menu has a slick slide-out menu that displays sub-links and content when a user hovers over a primary menu item.

The coloring of this navigation is subtle, but the menu manages to attract the user’s eye through its prominent location in the layout and the author’s high-contrast headshot.

Mathias Leihu

Go Media Inc’s navigation is an accordion that reveals sub-menus. Clicking on a primary menu item triggers an animated downward effect that opens up sub-menu items.

Mathias Leihu

This dark grunge-themed vertical menu is subtle yet hard to miss because of its position.

Circa, the Prince

Glass Tiger Surfboards opts for a vertical navigation menu with low opacity so that the grassy background shows through.

Glass Tiger Surfboards

The menu on this minimalist portfolio website has a red see-through background so that the featured photo is visible even when the menu is expanded.

Corey Arnold Photography

This artistic menu is transparent, so that the distinctive floral pattern in the background isn’t obscured.


This menu has a dark-gray semi-opaque background that allows the background image to show through.

yellowood store

This navigation system is revealed when the user hovers over “Menu.” The simplicity of the design is creative; the background images are the distinguishing element.

Van de Weghe Fine Art

This menu has illustrated icons beside menu items, which both complement the overall theme and help with visual recognition.

This vertical menu is a distinctive element in this layout. The icons to the right serve as eye candy and as visual representations of the menu items.

Huis Oranje

This menu is interesting because its grainy style is rarely seen on websites for institutions of higher education.

Washtenaw Community College

The navigation here is set against a wooden background, with links in an organic scribbled font.

Brown Blog Films

The portfolio of A J Miles has vertical navigation as its primary visual element. The menu is fashioned as a piece of paper held in position by tape.

A J Miles

This menu has colorful fonts with a hand-drawn look to them, complementing the overall theme.

This vertical menu is central to the layout. It has large fonts and a 3-D effect.

R.I.P. Cube Club

On this website, you can see how big font sizes can get when you have more vertical space to work with.


The personal website of Rick Monroe has navigation links on top of a textured background, right below the website name.

Rick Monroe

The big font size contributes to the minimalist theme of this website.

Rich Brown

This website has an organic hand-written font for its menu, which sets the tone for the layout (which is arranged as a gridded notebook).

Strip Turnhout

This menu offers an interesting interaction. When an item is clicked, the menu shifts left or right to make room for the content, thus creating an engaging user experience.


This navigation has over-sized fonts, making it the highlight of the layout. Hovering over a menu item reveals an interesting animated effect.


In this navigation system, the primary links are vertically oriented. Sub-menu items come out horizontally.

Notorious Design

This simple text-based menu is findable without drawing too much attention from the focal point of the page: the slideshow.

Light is Light

The items in this menu are done as strips of paper, adding a nice touch to the illustrated theme.

gary's real life

The vertical menu here takes up a large part of the layout. Hovering on an item reveals a simple CSS animation that moves the right-pointing arrows further right, giving the user a feeling of moving forward.

Denise Chandler

This irregularly arranged menu truly embodies the website’s organic look and feel. Icons on the left of each item help with visual recognition and complement the design.

Envira Media Inc

On this website, menu items are located near the middle of the viewport. The simple navigation adds a certain elegance without dominating the layout.


This website’s navigation is unique, looking a little like basket-weaving. Being in the top-right gives it prominence.


Bill Gates’ official website has a unique menu that conveys innovation and forward-thinking: themes that the technology baron surely wants to convey to visitors.

The Official Site of Bill Gates

This menu’s items are displayed as translucent circles. On hover, a symbol is revealed that relates to that particular menu item, making the menu memorable.


This menu is slightly tilted, and its skewed orientation is sure to grab the visitor’s attention. The design is appropriate for the website, which is for a restaurant.

Gianni's Steakhouse

Bold, striking, eye-catching. These adjectives aptly describe Aussie BBQ Legends’ vertical navigation. The menu plays a big part in setting the tone for the website.

Aussie BBQ Legends

Sid Lee agency uses an interactive navigation menu on the left side of the page. Some sections of the navigation have sub-sections which are displayed next to the primary navigation.


Harmony Republic places the navigation menu on the left side of its logo. Unusual placement, but it works nicely. The current navigation section is highlighted by a white background.


Further Reading Link

35 Examples of Effective Use of Vertical Navigation Menu in Web Design5


Footnotes Link

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Jacob Gube is the Founder and Chief Editor of Six Revisions, a web publication for web developers and designers, and the Deputy Editor of Design Instruct, a web magazine for designers and digital artists. He has over seven years of experience as professional web developer and web designer and has written a book on JavaScript.

  1. 1

    Sorry, Not inspired.

  2. 2

    Haven’t seen a vertical navigation list yet… Thanks.

  3. 3

    Nice list!

    Btw we’re called “Cambrian House”, not “Cambrin House” ;)

  4. 6

    Hej, thanks for sharing this very nice collection!

    Alot of inspiration in there!

  5. 7

    Nice post, although I would’ve loved to see the full pictures (all the site) to see the navigation in context.

    • 8

      I agree. I like this article, and think it’s good for people to see that vertical navigation does fit with certain types of content, design, and structure. But the images should definitely be full screenshots, otherwise there’s not much possibility for visual analysis without visiting the sites.

    • 9

      Thomas McGee

      April 19, 2010 8:55 am

      I see where you’re coming from, but the post seems to work pretty well as it is. Since the navigation is the emphasis, having it very large and isolated is helpful. A possible solution could’ve been to have two screenshots per Web site, one zoomed in, and one zoomed out. Just a thought, nice post though!

    • 10

      The problem with showing the entire site is that the navigation menus will get too small. But I think for next time, what I’ll do is have a thumbnail of the website AND the design element displayed side by side so that you both get the overall picture as well as a “zoomed in” view. Great points guys, thanks.

      • 11

        Seriously? You guys can’t muster up the strength to click and visit the sites?

        • 12

          There are 53 examples of nav bars in the article. I don’t think it’s feasible to expect all readers to view all 53 sites.

  6. 13

    Very nice designs. Thanks.

  7. 14

    Thanks for doing this — very good overview — lots of different styles.

  8. 15

    Definetly some good ones in there!! Although about half of them were not that impressive to me. LOVE TYPOGRAPHIC NAVIGATION!!

  9. 16

    Kudos to this showcase! More! More! More!

  10. 17

    Agreed!! Sometimes navigation gets overblown and will actually take away from the websites focus.
    Example: NATIONAL TELEVISION – beautiful to look at but extremely confusing

  11. 18

    Quirky, offbeat, grungy, slapdash, harebrained, vertigo-inducing—yes. But beautiful?

  12. 19

    Awesome list…

  13. 20

    It’s a very wonderfull list.
    Great job SM

  14. 21

    Van de Weghe Fine Art, light textcolor on light-colored background is no fine art ;-)

  15. 22

    Ahh cool Vertical Aligned Menus, inspiration for left aligned websites ftw :)

  16. 23

    I’m concerned that some of these examples of “good” menus items lack contrast in their off state, a few tweaks and they’d be a lot more accessible.

  17. 25


    April 19, 2010 5:20 pm

    Some of these are really great. Thanks for this list!

  18. 26

    beautiful & inspiring collection, ty

  19. 27

    So happy to c this great list in the morning!

  20. 28

    I love these, great collection

  21. 29

    Awesome & inspiring collection :)

    Thank you

  22. 30

    Great list of sites. They obiviously put in a lot of hard work to make their designs stand out, as well as making them usable. It’s quite a process to make designs like this work well, and making sure that users find them easy to work with too.

    Hope they’ve done plenty of usability testing on them all. At least they have cool tools like ours at to make it easier for them.

    Thanks for the list.

  23. 31

    Very Very Nice………… Superb collection……Thanks for sharing

  24. 32


    April 19, 2010 9:03 pm

    Very nice collection!!

  25. 33

    Yeah, smashing! Thank you for your link to The examples of navigations are very inspirating.

    Offtopic : I just finished your book and I hope you will publish a next issue! I can’t wait :)

  26. 34

    My favourite is ‘Light is Light’.

    You don’t have to have a fancy navigation for it to be great. I think this is a classic example of “tasteful” design.

  27. 35

    Very nice collection…!
    Keep it up.

  28. 36

    Not a fan of vertical navigation. Only really use it if there are too many pages to list horizontally or if I need to clearly separate the main menu from the sub menu.

  29. 37

    Nice list! Although a number pay absolutely no attention to accessibility and usability good practice.

    Designers – navigation is a critically important part of a website. If the correct level of importance is not placed of nav i.e. is obvious, readable, given appropriate balance, you may have failed in your design.

  30. 38

    Just what I was needing. I’m doing a site for a client that uses 2 navigational panel, one of witch is vertical.. Thanks

  31. 39

    Nice creative list – BUT – what about sites with more restrictions on what they can play with visually? Its too easy gather a list of creative on portfolio sites: Who is pushing the creative, brilliant ideas while working with mainstream companies, concerned about SEO endeavors, fighting archaic branding strategies, dealing with large business industries and corporate mumbo-jumbo? Who is overcoming challenges by introducing creativity and fresh air into site navigation?

  32. 40

    Great list, but you missed DubLi out – their menus blow me away!

  33. 41

    Design Earth

    April 20, 2010 9:23 am

    Above listed website although a good example of vertical navigation but a good example of design elements too.

    Thanks for sharing SM!

  34. 42

    wow, a very great collection of wonderful Navigations!

    Greetings from Germany

  35. 43

    good to see that navigation works vertically as well.


    ps – nice post.

  36. 44

    weks!!! so much nih…hmmm thanks thanks

  37. 45

    Patrick Matsumura

    April 20, 2010 10:52 pm

    Great list. Thx for sharing!

  38. 46

    Great list . Thank you.

  39. 47

    I like the TheymakeApps and divensis.

  40. 48

    Thanks for sharing this list. Some very good designs. – stands out for me.

  41. 49

    Unique List, but not all that inspiring!

  42. 50

    I agree there’s still a place for Vertical nav, but there seem to be a lot of flash sites there.

  43. 51

    There are some really cool Nav’s in this collection. Its a shame some of them are better than the actual website.

    Would be cool to show the Nav and the website together in the article with out having to click on them and leave the Smashing Magazine website.


  44. 52

    Gjermund R Gustavsen

    April 22, 2010 6:47 am

    Thanks for the feature and mini-review! The title isn’t right though, as it’s Divensis Design – not Tailored pixels…


  45. 53

    Justin Carroll

    April 22, 2010 6:35 pm

    That was a long post … get it? Vertical navigation, makes the post long. Anyway, good stuff.

  46. 54

    Definitely some very nice vertical navigation menu’s, I might look into a few of them and try to recreate them to get a better understanding of how they work. Thank you.

  47. 55


    Please remember some things with such navigations:
    1.) Customers sometimes have long navigation titles that can not be shortened.
    2.) If there is a translated version in french you need even more space.
    3.) Now there is maybe no need for a second or third navigation level but tomorrow when the content arrives there is no way without it.
    4.) The main navigation is the “control center” for the user on a web page. If your car looks like star trek inside it’s cool but if you don’t find the place to put the key in you wont be able to drive…

    Often designers use nice short dummy words in their PSD :-) but as soon as the customer adds pages and content the navigation doesn’t work anymore (and yes a customer has to have the possibility to add pages after the design is finished!)

    Nearly all of the navigations above would not work for customers managing their content on their own…

    Best regards

    PS: Of course they look nice :-)

  48. 56

    Thank you for the article. Some of these are great. I think a lot of the designs could have worked just as effectively horizontally. Just a thought.

  49. 57

    Thanks! I’ve been stuck in a horizontal navigation rut for awhile now and this might just be the inspiration I needed!

  50. 58

    Dreadful letter spacing on the Simple Life site – surely that’s not the intention?!

    If you’re going for type-based, make sure you set it well… first lesson of typeschool.

  51. 59

    I’ve been fond of vertical design setups lately and these are great. I will definitely be browsing through some of these designers, thanks for sharing!

  52. 60

    I am usually blown away by the stuff you guys find, but IMHO this article leaves a lot to be desired. There are a FEW really great v-navs but most of them are run-of-the-mill boring. Come on guys, you can do better ;)

  53. 61

    Jusu Designs

    April 30, 2010 1:29 am

    Thanks for a very inspiring list.

    I have been reading all the comments posted, good and bad, and I just wanted to add that I really enjoy looking at these showcases. I am always inspired by other peoples work and I find it fascinating how people have such a variety of ideas and designs and approach their work so differently.

    But at the end of the day, the most important thing about excellent web design is accessibility. It might look beautiful, but if it’s not accessible to everyone, is it good web design?

  54. 62


    April 30, 2010 2:24 am

    I struggled to see anything beautiful in that list, there were a few exceptions to the rule and looked ok, but nothing beautiful. Disappointing considering the rest of your sites content. Guess everything needs to be taken with a pinch of salt even if it is from a trusted site like yours

  55. 63

    Superb selection demonstrating there are so many techniques open to the designer, to inject style whilst enhancing functionality in web navs. Cheers! ;)

  56. 64

    excellent collection of navigations

  57. 65

    Very nice collection of vertical navigation ! Could someone point me to some help in building a nice Css3 one

  58. 66

    Nice. Vert menus are out of vogue at the moment but some of these examples illustrate that they can cut it in some situations, esp. grungy, punchy designs.

  59. 67

    Amazing collection. AWESOME!!!

  60. 68

    J.J. Carlson

    June 12, 2013 5:34 pm

    Nice collection, but obviously out of date now. I’m curious about vertical navigation within responsive design. You don’t really see that at all, and I understand why, but it would be nice to see more examples of where it was executed successfully.


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