A lot of Google's applications make use of the hamburger menu, including the FABs without descriptive text for the icons.

Why do they still keep at it since most UX researches/analytics have proved that it is bad for user experience?

  • 5
    This seems like a question for the product owner at Google...
    – Michael Lai
    Aug 14, 2018 at 11:58
  • Well, hopefully, you can refer him/her to this question. However, I would really love to know their reason for sticking with the hamburger, because a lot of product follow that particular trend and its misleading. Aug 14, 2018 at 12:15
  • What is your rationale for saying it is a poor descriptor for its action in the year 2018? Aug 14, 2018 at 16:37

2 Answers 2


Unless you are able to get a hold of Google's design team directly, you likely aren't going to get a definitive answer to this beyond the explanations and technical descriptions given in the Material Design documentation for navigation drawers and such. Some of that supporting documentation might shed some light as to be use cases and benefits of using this kind of navigation, and likely are a contributing factor to Google's continued use of the hamburger.

Also, it's worth bearing in mind that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ patterns -- it's all about context! While I would agree that hamburger menus present some navigation discoverability problems and might not be so great when, for example, a user is trying to "find" their way around a website where they have no idea what content is located where (in which case a fully visible main nav would be better)... they are a great way to place content "out of sight, out of mind" for apps whose main focus is a specific task that the user is already aware of and understands (e.g. I'd assume that most users know that the Google Sheets app is for -- surprise! -- editing Google Sheets documents).

Less navigation elements means fewer distractions when users interact with the app. Minimizing the navigation focuses the user’s attention on completing the task.

I'd also like to posit the notion that Google has a great many products in the wild, so their use of the hamburger menu is also likely a means to help standardize the interface between all of their varying products.

Much like the "contextual menu" (the three dots sometimes referred to as a "kebab" menu or "ant" menu), it's become so widespread that it's fairly recognizable by most. In fact, hamburger icons have been used on TV remote controls for quite some time and the glyph even has a unicode character: U+2630. Some designers call for its discontinued use, but that doesn't change the fact that many (most?) users know what it is and how it works by now -- and as such, a great many designers (including those at Google) continue to use it and incorporate it into systems like Material Design. You just have to remember that context is important -- knowing when to use it is key.

  • 1
    Well, you made quite a number of valid points. However, I'd like to point out that I never mentioned it is a "bad pattern". All I said is that it is bad UX and it is though, cause I have done personal analytics personally, coupled with other products analyses. A lot of "users" don't know what the hamburger is for till date cause they don't even border to click it amongst other reasons. Aug 14, 2018 at 12:56
  • Oh, sorry! I wasn't talking about good/bad patterns in regards to your specific wording -- just trying to illustrate that context is super important and that there is a time and a place for hamburger menus to be used. And you are exactly right in mentioning the discoverability issues -- that's definitely a well-known issue and why I said they shouldn't be used for things like "main navigation on a website" where a user is likely to be in "exploratory mode".
    – Kane Ford
    Aug 14, 2018 at 13:01
  • My point was to highlight the fact that many of Google's products are oriented towards a specific task and, as such, it's likely a benefit for them to standardize their interfaces between all their products (while keeping navigation hidden and users on task). :-)
    – Kane Ford
    Aug 14, 2018 at 13:01
  • 1
    +1 Patterns are not 'good' or 'bad', but they can be used appropriately or inappropriately so I like your answer!
    – Michael Lai
    Aug 14, 2018 at 22:44

I see this question as 2 parts:

  1. Hamburger menu, if so much research has proven it to be poor UX, why does it still exist?
  2. Why does a company so well known as Google still use it?

I'd like to answer the 1st question.
It has been my experience, researching users for the various projects that I have worked on, that the hamburger menu is NOT bad UX.

In my studies, users habitually (without thinking) go to the hamburger menu when they are looking for very specific things or to accomplish specific tasks.

The problem isn't the Hamburger menu, it's when decisions are made that use 'only' the menu as a point of access.

From what I have seen, there are opportunities for cross-linking between different-yet-related content that should be used to enhance an experience rather than leaning entirely on the nav items (i.e. items hidden in the hamburger menu).

"This page" may contextually have related content on "That page". Being a good UX designer, I will place an access point on "This page" to "That page" because it is part of my users' workflow or thought process - in addition to placing both in the menu. This is 'Contextual placement'.

The problem: However, I have seen some folks strongly argue that 'If its in the nav, we don't need to link to it here.'

The other problem: It is an 'easy out'. Everything under-the-sun being tucked away in the nav to clean up the 'page', rather than digging more deeply into the information design to find a way that is still 'clean' while providing 'usefulness.

The core purpose of the menu: As a mode of navigation for those who know what they are looking for.

Answering the 2nd question:
Why does Google use it? Because the people at Google aim to use it smartly and not as an 'easy out' to proper information design.

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