The hamburger menu, or the hamburger icon, is the button in websites and apps that typically opens up into a side menu or navigation drawer. The main purpose of the hamburger menu is to help simplify sites, group certain secondary features together, and create a pleasing design.
It was created by interaction designer Norm Cox for the Xerox Star personal workstation in 1981 as an easy way to communicate to users that the button contained a list of items.“The symbol’s longevity (since the 1980s) is a testament to its simplicity, utility, learnability and memorability,” said Cox, when asked about the calls to kill the hamburger icon.
Nielsen Norman Group Study
The study did find a distinction between desktop websites with hamburger menus and mobile websites with hamburger menus: visitors used the hamburger menu on mobile websites more than they used the hamburger menu on desktop websites. However, a hidden navigation (hidden = a website navigation menu “hidden” in a hamburger menu) is used less than a visible navigation (visible = a navigation where all pages in the menu are visible) across the board, regardless of whether the website is a desktop version or mobile version.
“Both on mobile and on desktop, people were significantly more likely to use the navigation when all or some of the navigation options were visible (that is, in the visible and combo conditions).”
The lower usage on desktop websites may be due to:
- Visitors using (or relying on) the search bar to navigate the website
- Visitors being unable to find the menu or not understanding what it is.
Personally, I like the menu button, and enjoy interacting with creative ones from other designers, but in the end, it doesn't really matter. I am unable to recall a business that did not succeed because they did, or did not use a hamburger menu : )