Recently, I was reviewing my work on a mobile app with another designer, when he asked me why I didn’t use a hamburger menu for the app’s main navigation.
The question caught me off guard. I paused for a second as I asked myself, ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ It almost felt like a trick question. I briefly explained that the hamburger menu obscured navigation and made it harder for users to find what they’re looking for. For the specific app I was working on, the content was not complex enough to warrant a hamburger menu.
After this conversation, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Was I wrong? The designer reviewing my work was more experienced than I was, but I felt certain that a hamburger menu was the wrong way to go.
The Pros and Cons
A hamburger menu is great because it saves a lot of screen space, which allows for a simple, clean design. On the other hand, this requires that the user do more work to move between sections of the app, increasing the interaction cost to the user. Though a hamburger menu can visually simplify a design, it complicates the app structurally because it obscures information behind three little lines that provide no information scent.
With any project, your design choices should be informed by a strong understanding of the people you’re designing for. Do they understand that three horizontal stacked lines means menu? Have they interacted with a hamburger menu before and is that experience extensive enough for them to quickly understand what it means?
The hamburger menu is one of those trends that designers often don’t question often enough; they just do it without further ideation. It’s dangerous to implement any design trend without considering if that choice makes sense in context of the app experience and its users. This is especially so if the trend in question applies to primary navigation.
So, I did a little investigation to see what other major companies use a hamburger in their mobile apps. Spoiler alert: there aren’t as many as you’d think. Continue…
not the first article about the hamburger menu, and it won’t be the last… still found it interesting enough to read through.