The hamburger button or hamburger menu is a popular choice for UX/UI designers when they are working on an application or designing a website. This icon has become so widespread that now it is intuitively clear to most people how to use it. However, its overwhelming popularity also began raising questions about whether this UI element is as universal as we think. In this post, we are going to evaluate the pros and cons of the hamburger button or menu, and see whether it is the right choice for the design of your project.
Advantages of Hamburger Menus
First, let’s have a look at the benefits that popularized hamburger menus.
Cognitive overload is a common mistake when making an app UI. It means that the application lacks intuitiveness. When there are too many elements and, therefore, choices for the user, it creates an unpleasant sensation. It is hard for the user to make a choice.
The hamburger menu helps user interface design agencies tuck everything away neatly. Your users are not confused by dozens of shiny buttons at once but rather have all the core functions placed in front of them in a straightforward and intuitive order.
Everybody Knows How to Use a Hamburger Menu
The hamburger icon is a universal concept and is used on a range of different devices. It does not raise any questions among those who use Apple or those who use Android. This is an anomaly – generally, specific UI icons are not so widespread. So, why get rid of something so ubiquitous in favor of a new concept that will take years to gain the same recognition?
Direct Access to the Desired Functionality
Hamburger menus organize useful features in an easily accessible way. The users can click directly on the pages they want, instead of pre-setting an order that they must go through before getting to their desired screen. This approach increases the speed and increases customer satisfaction of the product. With “hamburgers,” users can access only the screens and features they want to access with only a few clicks. UX/UI designers often apply it in the domain of mobile application design.
Disadvantages of Hamburger Icons
Hamburger menus look like a great UX/UI solution. Are there any minuses to it? Let’s find out.
Hamburgers Don’t Showcase Features Well
This type of icon has a significant disadvantage in comparison with other UX/UI solutions – it cannot demonstrate all the features of the app to the user in the first 5 seconds of its use. This time is vital in UX/UI design because the decision of whether or not a user will delete your app takes minutes. Sometimes even seconds. 25% of apps are deleted after the first use, which means the apps didn’t succeed at demonstrating the value to the users. That’s why onboarding is so important. When users first enter an app, they’re checking what features are available to them. Hiding them in the hamburger menu does not help with that.
Hiding features in a hamburger menu implies that they are of secondary importance. This is not true, of course, but that’s how our brain tends to perceive details. When they are out of sight, they are also out of mind. If something wasn’t important enough to be put on the home screen, it must not be that important for the user.
Click Rates for Hamburger Menus Are Increased
Usually, the icon is placed at the top left corner of a phone screen. However, this place is often where meta information is, like a company’s logo. This is not where the user expects to find something important. Therefore, the message that appears at the top of the screen is something to glance at, not click on.
The hamburger menu’s screen placement is the same as the default for the back button: the top left corner. When both icons are needed, you’ll either have to squeeze both of them next to each other or sacrifice usability by deleting one.
When Shouldn’t You Use Hamburger Menus?
Judging from all of the above, you can argue that hamburger menus are often great. They help make mobile applications UX/UI more intuitive and swift. However, in some cases, they also increase confusion, especially if we are talking about iOS screens. So then how should you decide whether or not to use one in your particular case?
- Ask yourself – Is it essential to encourage users to use all the features in the hamburger menu for the sake of your business or other purposes?
- If your answer is no, your app is probably fine as is. Settings or optional features organized in the form of a hamburger menu will mean a more pleasant and logical UI.
- If the answer is yes, you shouldn’t use it. Luckily, there are many other options that you can go for.
Let us now have a look at alternative options to the popular hamburger menu.
Useful Options for Menu Button Design
Feel free to choose among these fabulous UX/UI schemes to build a menu for your application or website.
Floating Hamburger Menu
A floating hamburger menu means that the list of features appeared when the mouse touched the button. This solution is excellent when there are many options or features, and all of them are equally important. For example, this menu is often used on university websites. Harvard has different sections on its website, like “Admissions and Financial Aid,” “Schools,” and “On Campus.” Having a floating hamburger menu allows them to spread out information but still keep the design clean and simple.
- Saves screen place;
- Intuitive and easy to use;
- It allows direct access to features.
- Features are not immediately viewable.
Companies that, for some reason or another, disliked the hamburger menu adopted tabbed menus. For instance, Facebook chose this system because it allows us to observe the core features and functionality on the home screen and tells users what page they are on immediately. Direct access is significant here. Users can rapidly switch to different features with a click and without having to go back to the home screen.
- Displays more core features and functionality on the home screen;
- Easy-to-reach buttons;
- It signals importance and encourages users to discover the features
- Limited to only 4–5 menu items (depending on screen size);
- Requires additional icons to get what the tabs do.
Many designers like this approach, but out of all the options mentioned here, this one is probably the least intuitive, especially for Android users. However, there are successful examples of using this type of interface as well. Many apps such as Tinder are embracing the ability for smartphone users to swipe left and right to make a significant choice.
- Very clean user interface;
- Aesthetically pleasing.
- Users must have experience with this type of navigation;
- Users are confused if not onboarded properly;
- Can’t tell what page you’re on;
- Have to go looking for features;
- Can’t do direct access.
Labeled Menu Button
If making a significant change to your app is not your ultimate goal, but you would like to increase usability, this would be a good alternative. The Nielsen Norman Group recommends labeled menus for increased conversions.
- Easy to introduce this change to your design;
- All users understand the menu
- All the disadvantages of a hamburger menu, except that it has a better icon recognition
The hamburger menu looks good and is intuitive, but not the only option. Implement it if you want to save screen space, but do not expect that the button will help you to increase conversions. If you are not sure what to choose, conduct A/B tests and choose a UX/UI menu structure that works best for your particular situation.