What is a hamburger menu?
The essence of good navigation is allowing people to get the information they need as efficiently as possible. SEO helps with this. People can come directly from a search and land on exactly the page they need. Proper navigation, however, maximizes a website’s usability. IT ensures that users can explore the site, find further information, or interact with the site owner with as few clicks as possible.
In the early 90s, hierarchical website navigation (menus that provide a path to all pages on a website, from general to specific) as we know it today was often non-existent. People would go from page to page via hyperlinks in the content itself, also known as local website navigation. Inevitably, where this was the sole form of navigation, confusion and frustration often followed. Over the years, effective and appropriate navigation became a central theme of web design.
Today, proper navigation is crucial. Websites are no longer restricted to computers. Increasingly, people are accessing the web via mobile phones and tablets. Many users will have the first experience of the internet via a mobile device. Web navigation, therefore, needs to be able to adapt to provide a satisfying experience for these users.
This leads us to the question of the hamburger menu. What is it and is it worth using?
The Pros and Cons of the Hamburger Menu
The hamburger menu or hamburger icon is also referred to as the hotdog menu, because of its appearance. Less amusingly but accurately, some people also refer to it as the three-line menu. If you’ve used a Firefox web browser or a mobile device recently you will almost certainly have come across this useful icon, normally in the top left or top right of the screen.
When clicked, it displays a list of options. Most mobile sites use this icon as a convenient and neat way to organize navigation when screen space is at a premium and ease of use is key.
One disadvantage of using this popular design element, however, is that it hides your navigation, potentially making your content harder to discover. For that reason, it would be wise to consider not stuffing everything into your hamburger menu. Prioritize what is important to your readers and what is important in terms of your business goals and keep those outside of the hamburger.
If you want new subscribers, for example, your subscribe button is likely to do best if it is visible on the screen, as opposed to tucked away inside your navigation, even if you put it at the top of the list. Hiding your menu implies that it is secondary to the page’s primary purpose.
Other sites solve navigation usability issues by incorporating a search tool. With more mobile users, this can be an effective solution to help them navigate to a piece of content.
As with most design elements, balance is crucial. It’s not necessary to rely on one type of menu or another. Whatever you choose, focus on your users. Aim to balance their experience in terms of usability and aesthetics, and you will have a winning combination.