BBC Magazine:

«I did multiple tests,» says James Foster, a web developer based in New Zealand, who has surveyed users’ interactions with the button over the course of many months. «The results all came out the same - the icon is not as clear to some users as developers and designers think it is.»

Adding the word «menu» underneath the three lines increases the button’s use by 7.2%, according to Foster’s tests.

Putting the hamburger inside a box, so it looks like a button, increases use by 22.4%.

Switching the lines for the word «menu» makes 20% more people click, Foster found.


People are getting used to the hamburger button - albeit slowly. Foster carried out his first test on users in early 2014, and has been testing since. Users do seem to understand it more.

The inventor of the hamburger - or air vent - is sanguine about his legacy. «Though I don’t condemn or condone its usage today, my guess is it’s probably here to stay,» says Norm Cox. «All the ‘controversial’ discussion about it has burned it even more into our digital vernacular.»

Recognition of the hamburger icon also depends on where it is positioned. If it’s positioned in an unusual location, putting a box around it is definitely a good idea.

At this point, replacing it with something else doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. Even Microsoft is putting it into its products now.

I guess we’ll just have to keep our heads down, push through the valley of incognizance that always occurs when we replace something people know with something they don’t, deal with the burger icon as well as possible,1 and hope that people will soon get used to it.

  1. This includes rethinking where it is located, particularly on mobile phones. iOS’s «navigation at the top» scheme made sense on a 3.5 inch screen; the larger the screen, the more problematic this approach becomes. ↩︎

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