Let’s get one thing straight: this article has nothing to do with different varieties of hamburgers, but rather a new trend in the web development industry. The hamburger menu is a technique in responsive design aimed at improving the functionality of a website.
The name refers to its shape literally looking like two buns and a slab of meat. You might not be aware of it but you might have seen the design before.
What is the Hamburger Menu?
The hamburger menu consists of three stacked, horizontal lines usually found at the top left or right corner of a webpage, allowing users to click through and have a glimpse of a hidden menu of the different pages of the website.
The hamburger menu was originally created by former Xerox product designer Norm Cox back in 1981. It was originally intended to simply indicate a list within the company’s Star system.
The technique became popular with the dawn of the smartphones. The objective was to save as much screen space as possible. For smartphone manufacturers, the need to get as many items on the small screen of smartphones triggered the hamburger menu.
The hamburger menu became even more popular in 2012 with the coming of responsive design. Slowly but surely, it found its way into desktop layouts.
With the hamburger menu, websites can achieve clean and gorgeous looking layouts. Likewise, it frees websites from the clutter of a three-tiered navigation filled with drop downs, social icons, search bars, and utility links.
Pros and Cons of the Hamburger Menu
Over the years, the hamburger button has sparked a series of debates specially within the UI/UX community. Opponents of the hamburger menu say that the design can be bad for a site’s user experience, while supporters say that the button simplifies site navigation.
One of the biggest advantages of the hamburger menu is that it can help clean up your home page especially on mobile devices where there is limited amount of space to work with.
If your website has a particularly large amount of pages, the hamburger menu will work best for you. It can help boost the menu functionality of your website and can contribute to having a crisp appearance for your website.
However, one drawback of the hamburger menu is that it can hide a lot of vital information. If you are trying to boost traffic in some of your pages, you need visitors to see those links in prominent places. The hamburger menu will hide those links and, in the process, may affect your click-through and conversion rates.
Another disadvantage of the hamburger menu is that it inhibits the ability of people to find unexpected content on their own. Statistics published on this website have also revealed that only 52 percent of users more than 45 years old are aware of the hamburger menu’s purpose. It is unlikely that they would click on that menu because those 3 lines are meaningless to them.
Tips to Optimize The Hamburger Menu
If you are planning to use the hamburger menu in your responsive design, here are some tips you can follow to ensure that you would not damage your digital marketing strategies:
- Be smart with the contents of your hamburger menu. Avoid putting your call-to-action links under the hamburger button as they will only get obscured in the menu. You can consider links to social media pages, contact forms, searches, subscriptions to other pages instead. In other words, avoid putting high priority pages on the menu.
- Draw attention to the hamburger menu. There are several ways you can make your menu attractive to visitors. You could put fancy animation, striking color, or other visual tricks. Just make sure that people can easily see it.
- Consider convenience. It is important for your website to be functional. If certain pages of your website will be hidden by the hamburger menu, you need to make sure that it is fast and easy to use.
- Do not hide the main navigation link. In certain cases, leaving the highly relevant navigation link is sensible. This way, users will be able to see the most important links without giving them too many options.
- Make it clickable. By styling the menu like a button, users will know that it is a navigational element.
Is the Hamburger Menu Right for your Website?
When planning to use a hamburger menu on your website, you need to evaluate the necessity of a hamburger icon on your website. Here are some issues that you need to address:
Number of Menus
Are you willing to sacrifice a little of your traffic for a hamburger menu? For instance, if you have 80 percent traffic on your Products page, is cluttering the page worth the risk just to prominently feature your company page?
Mobile App or Responsive Website?
With functionality beginning to merge between native apps and responsive layouts, you now really have to assess if a hamburger menu is still needed. A mobile app will contain a small set of interactions that your user may want to repeat over and over again. For this reason, the user interface needs to reflect the repetition of the usage pattern so hiding that link in the menu can result to frustration on the part of the user.
However, if you want your user profile settings accessible on Twitter, then adding an off-canvas basement is the perfect option.
(By the way, check out our recent feature on whether it’s a good idea to switch from a responsive website to a mobile app or not.)
If you are running an e-commerce website, a hamburger menu can be a good option for you. The menu can help store user profiles, carts, wishlists, product searches, and others.
These features are navigable with dedicated pages. They usually end up in a utility bar, which only adds clutter to an otherwise clean user interface.
Content For Conversion
If your website has content that is structured to deliver conversion, you are better off avoiding the hamburger menu. Unless you have a clear cut call-to-action and an expertly laid out conversion strategy, it is best to keep away from off-canvas navigation.
Most of the time, websites require the navigation to be present at all times since the content is not built around conversion and education. This often results to content dead zones that are dependent on primary navigation in order to continue exploring.
The hamburger menu is a welcome addition to websites viewed on mobile browsers. However, pulling it off on desktops is a different story. I hope the tips above will help you make an informed decision on whether a hamburger menu will work for your website or not.