Right now our application's opening page is a bunch of buttons vaguely grouped into categories which link to assorted areas of the application. Some of these links bring you to deeper application pages (settings menus, data tables, etc.) while others bring you to nested dashboard pages.
I want to avoid this design as much as possible because:
- It slows down navigating to deeper pages with actual functionality
- The pages themselves are very sparse, being nothing more than links, which makes them feel more like placeholders than actual destinations
- It's generally just an ugly design pattern
So I'm looking for some alternative designs to try here instead of lists of grids of icons. One idea I've floated has been to turn these pages into summary pages which instead of button links have summary information about the page they're linking to. Another alternative I've considered is just going with a Windows-style dropdown menu, but since this is a responsive webapp that kind of navigation will be hard to implement nicely given the scale of the navigational hierarchy.
EDIT: Below's a quick mockup which is essentially what the current system looks like. The placeholder images are intended to be icons semi-relevant to the section contents and pressing either those icons or the link text will bring you to the page.