Why You Might Want to Think Twice About That Hamburger Menu

hamburger menu


In the world of user interface design, the hamburger menu has long reigned as a seemingly indispensable tool. However, it is time to take a step back and reassess its true value. This article explores the drawbacks and limitations of the hamburger menu, shedding light on its low discoverability and potential negative impact on user engagement.


Limited Visibility and Discoverability

Limited visibility and discoverability of the hamburger menu can pose challenges for users. When the hamburger menu is hidden or not easily recognizable, it can hinder navigation effectiveness and user engagement. Users may struggle to find the menu and access important features, leading to frustration and decreased user satisfaction.


Not sure what a hamburger menu is? Here are some great examples on Dribble.


hamburger menu icons


Menu design plays a crucial role in addressing these issues. A well-designed hamburger menu should prioritize user accessibility and information architecture. It should be easily visible and identifiable, allowing users to quickly locate and access the menu. Additionally, clear labeling and intuitive placement can enhance user understanding and interaction.


To improve visibility and discoverability, designers should consider alternative navigation options such as side bar menus or tab bars. These provide a clearer information architecture and direct access to specific sections, minimizing the need for hidden menus.


Negative Impact on User Experience

The hidden nature of the hamburger menu can have a detrimental effect on the overall user experience. While it may save space and simplify menus, it also creates navigation friction and negatively impacts app efficiency. A/B tests and UX theories suggest that the hamburger icon reduces user engagement, as it hides features that users may not be aware of or find inconvenient to access. Multiple actions are required to switch between screens, which can lead to frustration and a less efficient user experience.


hamburger menu nav


There are concerns and reservations about the use of the hamburger menu. Many people prefer quick and instant navigation over a feature that introduces navigation friction. While there may be rare scenarios where the hamburger menu makes sense, these are exceptions rather than the norm. It is generally recommended to avoid using the hamburger menu completely, especially as there are better alternatives available.


Considering the negative impact on user engagement, navigation friction, and app efficiency, it is important for designers to carefully evaluate whether the hamburger menu is the most appropriate choice for their user interface. Prioritizing user needs, creating a strong information architecture, and exploring alternative navigation techniques can lead to a better overall user experience.


Increased Cognitive Load

Increased Cognitive Load: The hamburger menu introduces a higher cognitive burden for users. The hidden nature of the menu and the need to uncover its features places a cognitive strain on users, leading to decreased user engagement and increased navigation friction. Users are required to remember the hidden features and mentally map their location within the menu, resulting in information overload and reduced efficiency.


The cognitive load imposed by the hamburger menu arises from its design that conceals important navigation options behind a single icon. Users must rely on their memory and spatial awareness to access the desired features, which can lead to frustration and cognitive overload. Additionally, the lack of visibility and discoverability of the hidden features further compounds the cognitive strain.


To alleviate this issue, alternative navigation techniques such as side bar menus or tab bars should be considered. These options provide a clearer information architecture, reducing cognitive load and improving user engagement. By simplifying the navigation process and minimizing the need for mental mapping, users can navigate more easily and efficiently.


Inefficient Navigation for Content-Rich Websites

The complexity of navigating content-rich websites is exacerbated by the use of the hamburger menu. While the hamburger menu may be suitable for simple mobile applications, it poses significant challenges for websites with a large amount of content. The hidden nature of the menu introduces navigation friction, making it difficult for users to access the various features and sections of the website. This can lead to a decrease in user engagement as users struggle to find the information they are looking for.


Furthermore, the hamburger menu can negatively impact app efficiency. Users often have to perform multiple actions, such as opening the menu and scrolling through it, to switch between different screens or sections. This not only slows down the navigation process but also hampers the overall user experience.


To address these issues, a content-centric approach to navigation is recommended for content-rich websites. Instead of hiding features behind a hamburger menu, a menu layout that provides clear visibility and accessibility to different sections can enhance user engagement and streamline navigation. This approach allows users to easily find the information they need without the unnecessary friction caused by hidden features.


Poor Accessibility and Usability for Certain Users

Accessibility and usability issues arise with the use of the hamburger menu, particularly for certain users. These challenges can lead to frustration, cognitive overload, and ineffective navigation. Here are some specific issues that users may face:


Accessibility challenges:


  • Users with visual impairments may have difficulty locating and activating the hidden menu, as it relies heavily on visual cues.
  • Users with motor disabilities may struggle with the small target area of the hamburger icon, making it hard to tap accurately.


Usability limitations:


  • The hidden nature of the hamburger menu can cause confusion and frustration for users who are unfamiliar with this navigation pattern.
  • Users may experience difficulty in finding specific features or content buried within the menu, leading to a suboptimal user experience.


User frustration:


  • The extra step of opening the hamburger menu to access desired content can be time-consuming and frustrating for users who frequently switch between sections or features.
  • Users may feel overwhelmed by the cognitive load of remembering the location of various options within the menu.


To ensure a more inclusive and user-friendly experience, it is important for designers to consider alternative navigation patterns that address these accessibility and usability concerns. By providing clear and visible navigation options, designers can help users navigate more efficiently and reduce frustration.


Lack of Context and Information Hierarchy

One significant issue with the hamburger menu is the lack of context and clear information hierarchy it provides for users. Design implications arise from this lack of context, as users may struggle to understand where they are within an app or website. Without a clear visual indication of the current location or the hierarchical structure of the information, users may find it difficult to navigate and locate specific features or content.


Information architecture plays a crucial role in user experience optimization, and the hamburger menu often fails to support this. Contextual navigation, which is essential for users to understand their position and navigate effectively, is compromised by the hidden nature of the hamburger menu. This can lead to frustration and disengagement, as users may struggle to find what they are looking for.


To address this issue, designers should prioritize clear information hierarchy and contextual navigation. Consider alternative navigation patterns, such as side bar menus or tab bars, that provide a more visible and structured navigation experience. By enhancing the visibility and accessibility of information, users can navigate with ease and engage more effectively with the app or website.


Alternatives to Consider for Better Navigation and UX

To address the limitations of the hamburger menu and improve navigation and user experience, designers should explore alternative options that offer more visible and intuitive navigation choices. Here are some alternatives to consider:


Side bar menus vs hamburger menu:


  • Side bar menus provide a clear information architecture and make it easier for users to navigate through different sections of an app or website.
  • They offer a more visible and accessible navigation option compared to the hidden nature of the hamburger menu.


Tab bars as a navigation alternative:


  • Tab bars provide quick and direct navigation to specific sections, allowing users to easily switch between different screens or functionalities.
  • They offer a more intuitive and user-friendly navigation experience, as the tabs are always visible and easily accessible.


Context-driven navigation techniques:


  • By analyzing the context and content of the app or website, designers can implement navigation techniques that are tailored to the specific needs of the user.
  • This approach ensures that the navigation choices are relevant and meaningful, enhancing the overall user experience.


While the hamburger menu may have its limitations, there are exceptions where it makes sense to use it, such as in the iOS Gmail app where it is used for navigation between channels and channel members. Additionally, a content-centric approach to navigation can have a significant impact on the user experience, as it ensures that the navigation choices are aligned with the content and its hierarchy. By exploring these alternative options and considering the context and content, designers can create navigation experiences that are more visible, intuitive, and user-focused.



In conclusion, the hamburger menu may not be the best choice for user interface design due to its drawbacks and limitations. Its low discoverability, negative impact on user experience, and inefficient navigation make it a less favorable option. Considering alternative navigation techniques, such as side bar menus and tab bars, can lead to clearer information architecture and improved usability. It is essential to prioritize user needs and constantly adapt to the evolving landscape of UX design.


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