For my final layout I went in a completely different direction than my original layout. I ditched the maroon color and went straight black and white. It is simple and easy to look at and you can easily navigate and decide what you are looking for. My layout is now a two column instead of a 3 column system. I think it is more organized, easier to look through and more dynamic as well.
The navigation bar is on the side still but hidden for most of the time. The icons are clean and clear icons that you can hover over and when that happens the topic will come out from the left side. Which will give you access to sub categories involved in that topic.