The hamburger icon has been around almost as long as mobile web design has. You know the one, the three horizontal lines you see in the corner of a website usually when viewing a website on a mobile phone or tablet.
Since it’s inception, the hamburger menu has been widely used as a responsive navigation menu, which can unfold the pages of a website when it is clicked on. Alternately it can pack itself up like a suitcase if you don’t want the menu to be in the way.
The icon is more prevalent in mobile sites to help save screen space when browsing on your gadgets, but it has now graduated to the desktop world. Popularised by well-known sites such as Facebook and Youtube, more and more websites are adopting the hamburger icon.
The hamburger menu has come under a bit of scrutiny recently with some feeling it is dated and questioning its relevance anymore. But what’s the right answer, if so many top sites still use it, why are so many people criticising them now?
Well, firstly, websites with a more complex site map with depth to their infrastructure may not benefit from implementing the icon. It can make it more difficult for the user to navigate the website and they could have to rely on trying to remember where certain pages are when coming back to them later on.
The user will also need to click more times compared to an open menu that can redirect you to the desired page in less clicks. Additionally, if you want users to utilise certain actions such as ‘share on…’ they are not likely to go looking for it in the menu isn’t already available in front of them.
Granted, in cases like this maybe the hamburger menu isn’t the best option, however there are still reasons for it to be implemented.
The main thing it is useful for are websites that don’t have a complicated site map such as perhaps portfolio sites for people to showcase their work so that the user’s full attention is on the content and isn’t hindered by a menu navigation bar. A lot of people also like the fact that it provides a minimalistic and uncluttered appearance.
In truth there isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to the hamburger menu. Under the right circumstances, the hamburger icon can be an excellent navigational tool for a user. However, it can also be your worst nightmare if you have content for days.