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It seems like the three line (hamburger) icon is becoming the standard for menus, but I'm still not sure of what the ideal accompanying text should be.

In my design, I originally put:

hamburger icon Menu

But then I remembered reading somewhere that we should avoid using wording descriptive of the item, and instead use wording that is relevant to the user's action. I thought about doing something like:

hamburger icon What are you looking for?

But at the same point I don't want people to confuse it with a search area. My site will have many non-tech-savvy users, and I'm worried they might skip over the nav menu. What have you guys been doing?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think" comes to mind when he discusses the buttons "Jobs" vs. "Explore Opportunities Here". In this example, a user can identify "Jobs" must faster and with less cognitive load. Relating to the hamburger menu, I think keeping "Menu" will make users find the function faster.

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Could even switch it up, while still keeping it short like menu. Try some words like navigation, browse, pages, explore, etc. –  Mike Mersereau Jul 26 '13 at 2:16
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There's lots of possibilities. Although personally, I think a tooltip might work best, and have it automatically show for a few seconds on page load. A little tab pointing to it saying "menu", or "what are you looking for?", like you said. There's lots of possibilities on what it could say though.

  • Explore the website
  • Navigation
  • Browse our pages
  • Click here for more pages

It all depends on your niche really, maybe you could make one that relates too.

Overall though, a tooltip may be better than just static text. It takes up less space, and only shows for a few seconds to users, so it doesn't bother them after that (maybe only for first time users too).

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As you said hamburgers start to be popular, mobile screens are not so big and I'm not sure about the utility to add a "menu" label for this icon.

Google Chrome or Twitter Bootstrap for example, already use this for their products without labels. It can be an good alternative and gives you more space on your UI. It also depends on how your users are experimented with this kind of button.

Fun fact : On the-magazine.org, if you hold the hamburger button menu for around three seconds, the button turns into a real hamburger, isn't it awesome ? :)

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Avoiding a 'menu' label also makes i18n easier as there is less to translate - though I'm not sure it has enough widespread recognition to dispense with the label yet. –  Alok Jul 26 '13 at 14:51
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