How Not To Use The Hamburger Menu

3 Drawbacks To Using a Hamburger Menu

1. A Hamburger menu removes information scent from the navigation. When we walk into a room and get a huge whiff of chocolate chip cookies in the oven, or garlic in the frying pan, you know something good is cooking. Likewise, when you load a page, your mind is already sniffing around for what it wants, looking for queues, processing the data, and ultimately deciding what it wants to engage.

Do you know what smells like?
Nothing.

When there are actual words displayed, your brain will subconsciously detect them and you will be far more likely to interact with the navigation than without—see point #3.

2. The hamburger menu is less efficient, requiring more clicks/taps. Those extra taps make the app feel more cumbersome. Because there is limited space on mobile, it’s understandable to have to tuck away some of the navigation behind the scenes. Nevertheless, there’s usually enough room to display the top choices for users, or at least display your top choices you want users to interact with:

This approach is going to reduce the number of taps your users require, and this efficiency can translate into dollars.

3. Hamburger menus lowers user-engagement. This is where the rubber meets the road. Here’s a post where someone did actual tests with his live app. Even when he did not display the top choices on a full-width menu, but instead kept a single button for his navigation, by simply adding the word menu, his conversions increased so much that it translated to hundreds of thousands of dollars more per year!

It’s also important to note that adding a border or making it look like a button was also a significant help to increase information-scent. Users click buttons. Users click words. Users do not click “ ”.

So What Is It Good For?

For better or for worse, the hamburger is ubiquitous and most users know it houses a menu. It’s fine to use for marketing websites on smaller/mobile screens. If you’re on a desktop/laptop computer viewing a website, no one should see the hamburger anywhere. If you’re building an app, try to break out some of the menu items into their own buttons, but each case will be unique. In general, only use it when you have to.