I showed the hamburger menu icon ☰ ☰ to my wife (and living with me she's quite computer literate). But she couldn't make sense of the hamburger menu. "There's two of them, one each side. Looks like design elements, not navigation."

But this is 2014 an EVERYONE knows how to navigate the internet. Or not. Do we as UX designers move to fast, implement stuff not apparently obvious to our users?

"Facebook does this right, she says, they use the word "more" which makes me know what to expect". Three dots and the text more! Double coding is the answer for this user, but do we move to fast? Have we lost touch with our users?

  • 1
    There's two of them? Why?
    – Erics
    Jan 19, 2014 at 7:30
  • @Erics The left for top navigation, the right for categories. Some of the right controls uses a siluett of a user indicating profile info. These are all newspaper mobile implementation. Jan 19, 2014 at 7:33
  • Hmmm ... stretching the design pattern by having two icons representative of "all the navigation stuff has been collapsed to this one spot". Hmm#2 what top navigation do news sites have other than categories??
    – Erics
    Jan 19, 2014 at 8:17
  • @Erics Other categories based on roles instead of content?? Jan 19, 2014 at 9:01

3 Answers 3


In my opinion some designers go too fast nowadays. Let me elaborate.

We're all past the days of reading the user manual before using an application. Not reading the manual was only possible since modern application design conforms to two very crucial design aspects:

  • predictability
  • discoverability

Firstly, every application's UI should be predictable. The UI should mimic and re-use concepts that are known from other applications, and behave in a way the user expects.

Secondly, every application's UI should be discoverable. The user might not yet know all the ins and outs of the application, but can discover additional features and options through clearly marked, visible and/or designated UI elements.

People that have used computers for years can find their way around a new application easily because of its predictability. People that are relatively new to computers (e.g. kids) can find their way around a new application easily because of its discoverability. Since this has been the case for the past several years, it may look as if most people are inherently good at working with new applications, and designers tend to forget the design aspects that contribute to this.

Since it is nowadays easier than ever to forget about predictability and discoverability, designers are creating interfaces such as the new Windows 8 interface. On the PC it lacks predictability because it is a radical departure from previous versions of Windows, and it lacks discoverability because many crucial navigational elements (e.g. the app overview) are invisible unless you manage to execute the right gesture or press the correct key.

The hamburger menu icon can be made discoverable by making it clearly a UI element (and not a design element). And since it mimics other app's use of the icon, it is easily made predictable.


Yes. We move too fast.

I have years of experience teaching people how to use computers. From performing very basic, daily activities, to the more complex things like writing formulas in Excel for their Home and Business Budgets.

Trying to keep your pace is difficult, because if you want to keep up to date with things and keep innovating, you are almost definitely going to leave some people behind. And by some, I mean many. Many thousands, even tens, or hundreds of thousands of people.

The question you have to ask yourself is, I think: "Is it worth leaving this many people behind?"

Will you lose a substandtial amount of potential customers or clients? - Yes.

Do you want that to happen? - Probably not.

Do you want everyone to be able to understand the things you create? Or just the "smart" ones?

I think what we need to do is, find something that we don't understand. Then figure out what it does or means, then ask yourself, "How could I have made that, so it would be easier for me to understand?" and apply that logic to your work.


Virtlink has a good answer. I agree with him on the point that currently no one reads instruction manuals, but I would argue that in the past, people would read them since:

  1. They were so afraid to ruin something, that they wanted to ensure they were fully trained before operating the system;
  2. Systems were not design taking users into considerations;
  3. Users were not experienced at using interactive systems (computers, ATMs, phones...)

But things are currently changing since:

  1. Lots of users were born when computers, ATMs, phones were ubiquitous
  2. This generation is not afraid to try and error (most applications nowadays make it safe to fail since you can go back to the previous state.)

What I see is that there is also a new generation of system designers that realize this and is not afraid to push the system to the customers early. This means that after the product is in the customer's hand, it will be constantly changing and users will have to be constantly adapting to them. A few examples of this are pretty much all cloud apps (gmail, google docs, facebooks, ...), some desktop applications that auto update like chrome.

Things are changing at such a fast pace that even your phone can change drastically (upgrading one android version to another, or upgrading iOS6 to iOS7). And stuff that didn't use to change at all after you bought it like a car, nowadays can change at any time (Tesla can update the suspension of your car just like chrome can change its shortcut keys).


Designers are iterating quickly, and trying to figure out patterns for things that don't have patterns yet. The hamburger icon is an example of this. Designers were using lots of different icons to mean 'settings' or 'configurations' - gears, wrenches, and all other kinds of icons.

At a given time someone started using the hamburger icon, and other designers though it was good (or simply though that it was being used by applications that have lots of users) and also started using.

So, Yes, designers seem to have lost some touch with users. Every time I look at the hamburger icon I still cant figure out why an hamburger would mean 'settings'. But also, there are lots of applications and designers are trying to figure out new interaction patterns. So you need lots of iterations and lots of segmentation before designers agree on a given pattern.

  • Because the 'hamburger' is supposed to look like multiple lines of text/ Label and edit fields... at least to me. I never thaught about food looking at it. (But that's just my personal opinion.)
    – Ria
    Jan 21, 2014 at 11:05

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