Mobile usage has exploded; and with it, mobile-specific design strategies have been created. Some of them are amazing, such as responsive websites. Some of them are not so amazing, such as the "hamburger" menu, which we will be discussing (and hopefully killing off) in this article.
What is the hamburger menu?
You've probably seen the hamburger menu without really knowing what to call it. It's the little 3-line icon in the top right or top left of most sites when you access them on mobile.
(Sometimes you even see it on desktop sites; which, you'll realize is even more awful after reading this article.)
It was created a few years back, and it's simply exploded in usage. It's ubiquitous at this point; if you have a mobile site, you likely use a hamburger menu.
Unfortunately, it's explosion in usage is a terrible thing for company website owners everywhere. If you have one, you've made a mistake--albeit one that is easily correctable.
Why is it so popular?
Well, to be honest, it is an elegant solution from a design standpoint. Desktop sites have the space to include the traditional menu you see on most sites around the web. So when designers were asked to design sites with smartphones in mind, that presented a serious problem: how can we get all these menu options on a screen so small?
This is why the hamburger menu was created; instead of trying to get all of those options on the mobile screen...why not just hide it behind an icon that allows you to access the menu when you want it? BOOM. It exploded. It seems like an obvious and elegant solution, right?
Except it's not.
A lot of designers design things because they look good, because they are easy, or because every other designer does it that way so it must be a good idea. What happens is that they don't incorporate user psychology into their design; not every designer has an understanding of the way that a user's mind works when they are using a site. In other words, a designer often designs for looks, not user experience.
The hamburger menu seems like a good strategy, but when you evaluate the way that users navigate sites, you learn that it's actually fundamentally flawed.