This is probably the most simple layout on the list. In fact, you’ll be tempted to think that it’s far too simple to ever fit your own needs. If this is the case, you’ll be surprised if you really put some thought into how versatile the arrangement really is.
The three boxes layout features one main graphic area followed by two smaller boxes underneath. Each of these can be filled with a graphic, a block of text or a mixture of both. The main box in this layout is often a jQuery slider, capable of showcasing as much content as you want!
The silhouetted shapes along the top are areas that can be used for logos, company names, navigation, search bars and any other informational and functional content typically on a website.
This design is ideal for a portfolio page or anything that needs to show off a few sample graphics. Each of the images could be a link that leads to a larger, more complex gallery page. Later in the article we’ll see how to mix this idea up even further.
As developers continue to create an endless collection of webapps, the 3D screenshots layout seen below, or some variant of it, is becoming more and more popular. The basic idea is to top your page with a headline and then toss in some stylized previews of your application. These often come with reflections, heavy shadows, big background graphics, or even complex adornments such as vines crawling all over the screenshots, but the core idea is always really simple.
Another place I see this trick used a lot is in pre-built themes. In these cases, a designer is selling a stock layout and really needs his/her placeholder graphics to shine, and nothing says cool and modern like some fancy 3D effects!
Many of the layouts that you’ll see in this article adhere to a pretty strict grid alignment. However, for the most part, they don’t simply suggest a page full of uniform thumbnails. For instance, the layout below mixes up the size of the images to avoid redundancy.
As with the three boxes example, there’s one primary graphic heading up the page. This is followed by a simple twist on the idea of a uniform grid of thumbnails. The space would allow for a span of four squares horizontally, but instead we’ve combined the first two areas so that the left half of the page differs from the right.
As we mentioned with the first layout, the blocks don’t have to be images. For example, you can imagine this as blocks of text on the left flanking square images on the right.
Sometimes you don’t have enough content for a page full of images. So what do you do if you want to showcase one icon, photo or perhaps even a symbol such as an ampersand? The layout below is a super easy solution that is quite popular and reads very well due to the lack of distractions.
The result is a page that is bold, yet minimal and clean. The statement it makes is strong and impossible to miss, just make sure your graphic is good enough to be featured so prominently!
The five boxes layout is simply an evolution of the three boxes layout. All of the same logic applies, it’s just been modified to hold even more content. It could easily be four boxes as well, it just depends on what you want to showcase. It also makes it look like you put a little more effort into the design!
Obviously, as you add to the layout, the secondary items become smaller and smaller so for most uses, five boxes is probably going to approach the limit.
Just as with the three box layout, this one is so versatile that it can literally be used on just about any type of site. Ideas for switching it up include adding a large background graphic, rounding the corners, adding shadows and/or reflections, or perhaps even adding an interactive element to the smaller thumbnails. You could easily add in buttons that cause them to scroll horizontally.
Thus far all the sites that we’ve seen have had a top-side horizontal navigation. The other popular option is of course a vertical navigation, which lends itself to creating a strong vertical column on the left side of the page. Often this is a fixed element that stays where it is while the rest of the page scrolls. The reason for this is so the navigation can stay easily accessible from any point in the site.
The rest of the content can borrow from one of the other layouts on this list. Notice that I’ve again modified the three box layout, this time in a four box arrangement. Once you’re done reading this article, look at all the layouts again and think about how you can mix and match the ideas to create new layouts.
Headline & Gallery
Everyone loves a good gallery page. From a layout perspective, what could be simpler? All you need is a solid, uniform grid of images and some room for a headline with an optional sub-head. The key here is to make your headline big and bold. Feel free to use this as a point of creativity and include a script or some crazy typeface.
This example uses squished rectangles to mirror the real site below, but this can and should be modified to fit whatever you’re showing off. The point here is to get you to think outside the box and not default to a square, maybe you could use vertical rectangles or even circles in your own gallery!
The layout below is extremely common, especially among the photography community. The basic idea here is to have a large image displaying either your design or photography (anything really), accompanied by a left-side vertical navigation.
The navigation might be the strongest in a left alignment, but feel free to experiment with a center or even right alignment to compliment the straight edge of the photo.
The power grid is the most complex layout in this article, but it is one of the most effective layouts I’ve seen for pages that need to contain all kinds of various related content. From images and music players to text and videos, you can cram just about anything into this layout and it stays strong.
The key lies in the bottom half of the preview above. Notice that there’s actually a large container that holds a series of rectangles. This container provides you with the boundaries for your space, and all the content you place inside should be formatted in a strong but varied grid, not unlike the advanced grid layout near the beginning of this article.
Full Screen Photo
The final layout on the list is another that is ideally suited for photographers, but will work on any site with a big, attractive background graphic to display and a limited amount of content.
It can be really hard to read content when it is laid over a background image, so the basic idea here is to create an opaque (or nearly opaque) horizontal bar that sits on top of the image and serves as a container for links, copy, logos and other content.
Rather than using the bar as one really wide content area, try splitting it into a few different sections. This can be done by varying the background color, adding some subtle vertical lines as dividers or even actually breaking the big box into smaller disconnected boxes as I’ve done above.
Check out Designshack for real life examples of each layout.