In Response to “The hamburger menu doesn’t work”

I understand the concern the writer has with hamburger menus being unclear in what they represent and not displaying information. In only rare situations should a desktop site or application use a hamburger menu because they have enough real estate to display a fuller menu.

However, because the hamburger menu is so widely accepted and used throughout the industry most users will already be used to using them. I can imagine that most users that download a new app and are looking for something they cant find would immediately consult the three lines at the top of their screen. Because the use of the hamburger icon is so prevalent the icon has become synonymous with “menu”, “navigation” and “help” among users. This means that information that is not directly prevalent to what is being displayed on the page can be put in other pages that are stored in the menu. The example the article gives of:

Client: “What if the user wants to see the pricing?”
Designer: “Oh, they can just click the menu icon and then click ‘Pricing.’ Easy!”

, would never actually happen in a well designed hamburger menu if “pricing” is relevant information to the product on the current page. This unlikely kernel of anecdotal evidence is not enough to sway me away from the use of the hamburger icon. Though the icon, like a drawer (which is the common term used to refer to the menu), hides its contents it is still clear what it is hiding, and it is not muddying the valuable screen space on small mobile devices like a bottom or top navigation would.

Accessibility and usability is a key aspect of the hamburger/drawer system that this navigation affords. A user can either tap on the hamburger icon to open up the navigation drawer, or slide from an entire side of the screen to open it up (It is also becoming clearer that gesture navigation is the future of mobile OSs). Giving two options for use means that more users can use the app/site in more situations. I think that a “top bar” navigation is a really poor approach on mobile, but great on desktop. It is more intuitive to the user that the prevalent information at the top of the screen relates to what they are shown on the rest, but on mobile we hold our devices from the bottom, and as larger devices are more common, one handed navigation is impossible to attain with a nav-bar placed on the top.

“Bottom bar” navigation fixes the usability problem of its top counterpart, and is a pretty good solution for mobile navigation as it clearly displays the alternate pages the user can go to, however my use of more complex apps with this system highlight what I miss about the hamburger menu. In my recent experience using Spotify, which has opted for a “bottom bar” navigation setup, I was downloading playlists and wanted to check what my download settings were, but I could not find a settings icon anywhere on the page.

I legitimately had no idea where to go to find my settings, so I just guessed and pressed different menu icons until I found it in my “home” page. When Spotify used the hamburger menu, they were able to put lots of different pages all throughout the menu because they were not limited by space. Once they started using the “bottom bar” they could only put about three or four things in that area so it wouldn’t get cluttered. In doing so, they had to pick the three most important things to them to make easily accessible (which I completely disagree with as a user).

It seems that Google Play ran into a similar problem, as they were able to only fit four options in their “bottom bar”. But, it being an important and complex app, they had to find a way to give access to all the other pages so they opted to use a hamburger menu in addition to the “bottom bar”. Google attempted to get rid of the hamburger menu, but were unable to.

The hamburger menu is the only clear solution to navigate a complex app on a mobile device. It has become clear to users what it represents and what it does. While it doesn't immediately display the information it holds, it allows the app to hold more information in general instead of limiting the app to three or four main pages.