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I'm designing the UI for a PMS (project management system) web app which handles multiple projects. Basically, it's an app that is pretty similar in functionality to Basecamp so it needs to contain multiple client projects.

My question is, since the initial web app will need a menu for basic tasks like account settings, view all projects...etc, where should I put the menu for each of the different projects (ie. add discussion, add to-do list...etc)

I've looked at what the old Basecamp used to do, and basically they replaced the basic tasks menu (account settings, view all projects) with the menu for the projects whenever the user clicked on a new project. However, I've always found this to be confusing to users so that's not really what I want to do.

Screenshots/mockups of design suggestions would be a plus.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

A common idiom is to have two menu layers. But I believe a better method is to separate the menu into completely distinct screen real-estate.

Many websites have a smaller but ubiquitous set of links for account management, login, at the very top right of the page. Farther down they have a larger and more complex menu for the task at hand. This division of 'above the header' and 'between header and content' or 'down the left' separates the global site activities and the more locally relevant activities for the current page.

The site you are on right now follows that pattern... a small navigation area at the very top with globally relevant links, and a larger, more prominent set of menus and tools for the current 'project'.

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