Are hamburger menus good for UX?

Are hamburger menus good for UX?


The debate around hamburger menus is vast and ongoing. For some, it's a consequence of bad information architecture, whereas others see it as an integral part of a smooth design.

Hamburger menus have been around for decades and have enjoyed a renaissance over the last 10 years, especially on smartphones. The three-line symbol became popular on mobile phones as the menu freed up some of the already limited space on phone screens. Opinion has changed recently, and the debate over whether hamburger menus are detrimental to the development of many apps and websites continues.

Hamburger menus can be seen as an inefficient method of user engagement. Requiring a number of taps from users for them to get to where they want to be. The process may sound amazingly mundane but is still important for designers and users - many argue that there are too many steps to progress through a site when navigating via hamburger menus. App and website customers are impatient and want to spend the least time possible looking for the right page, so it is imperative that content is placed strategically within the hamburger menu to get customers to the intended pages easily.

On the other hand, a positive given for hamburger menus is that they help websites and apps keep a clean and uncluttered design - a desired way to present digital media. We know that visual real estate is at a premium, thus a hamburger menu can provide high value by conserving content within the site or app. Additionally, when considering choice architecture, the hamburger menu can reduce and frame the number of choices presented to the user. This then guides their decision-making behaviour in a way that’s of value to the business.

Despite utilising the hamburger menu to keep an immaculate and well-ordered design, it shouldn’t be a place to cram in as much information as possible. This would be seen as a negative for user experience. The menus fuel bad information architecture when designers put an infinite number of lists onto the app or website, filling the platform with overwhelming content that buries important pages. The decision of whether to add a page or not should be decided by the content, not the fact that it can be extra “stuff” hidden behind a menu for “just in case”. With years of experience designing websites, we understand the importance of reviewing your information architecture. Do not use hamburger menus to fill the site with unnecessary content – pay close attention to whether it will really add value or not.

It should be noted that there are examples where hamburger design works well, especially on apps and websites that have one main function. Uber is one of the most popular examples of this; as soon as you open the app you see the two most important features, the search bar and the map. For Uber it makes sense to use a hamburger menu because features such as History and Settings will not be used every time the app is opened. Requesting a car - the app’s prime function- is easy to access from the first page.

In the right setup hamburger menus can still be very useful – from being recognisable and intuitive, to clearing a page of secondary functions. However, for apps and websites with a range of uses hamburger menus should be incorporated into a more sophisticated design. The user and their experience is fundamental if you want them to interact with the product.

We value the importance of UX when building digital tools hence why we provide charming and persuasive digital designs. Contact us for more information about our services.


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