A lot of web sites use a menu icon consisting of three horizontal bars to indicate a button that will trigger a navigation menu.

It has, for example, been included in Twitter bootstrap (which is used at over a million sites). It is also used to indicate the main menu in Firefox and Chrome.

However, I'm curious how much the symbol is known outside of the western world. For example, if a Chinese web site were to use it, would users understand it?

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    There's been some research that suggests users don't really understand it even in the western world...
    – DallonF
    Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 12:28
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    I didn't understand it until after the "tooltip" popup-text explained it. Which is a partial answer: You can get away with imperfect icons if you're prepared to educate users about them, or if you can make users confident that clicking on them experimentally won't do anything harmful/irreversable. (In fact, many of the icons I use on a daily basis are MUCH less than self-explanatory, but the tools have taught me what they do and I then realized why the designers thought they made sense. That's not optimal, but I think it's more common than we like to admit. Writing was invented for a reason.)
    – keshlam
    Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 13:41
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    @DallonF, can you point to said research? Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 18:03
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    The top picture of this news story suggests yes. For those who can't see: an android smartphone released in China for a Chinese audience in 2012 had this symbol as the menu button. Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 2:50
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    @EvilClosetMonkey Not a study, but Nielsen Norman Group has an Alertbox article that describes some challenges with the hamburger menu today. Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 2:22

2 Answers 2


According to this site, the US by far has the largest population of Twitter users. But there are still a considerable number of users outsite the US. Of course, these figures will be considerably distorted by now, but the fact remains;

If twitter uses it, a lot of apps will mimic it. This means there will be a considerable number of apps (and websites to a degree) using it and people are likely to recognise it.

I'm less likely to second guess a corporation like twitter on something directly related to their users experience of their service.

  • Two things: 1) Does Twitter itself actually use it? I'm not seeing it on their website or iOS apps. 2) I see where you're going with your deduction, and in the absence of firmer evidence it might be the best we have to go on. I wonder, however, what implications this had in markets like China, where the Great Firewall keeps services like Twitter away and a strong native app ecosystem (with perhaps their own established conventions) dominates. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 16:34
  • I believe they used to use it. But then navigated away from it. I also believe their twitter bootstrap got rid of it because the hamburger icon is very ambiguous.
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 20:47

A short answer - yes, the Chinese will know it, and they probably know it as a slide-out navigation menu instead of hamburger menu icon. And it's not found on their WeChat application (based on the features I used while exploring the app).

However, meatball menu icon seems to be used more often. The meatball menu icon also implies better that there's more to see and do compared to the hamburger menu icon.

Just sharing a few cents' worth here. Do bear in mind that every culture has their own preferences and interpretations of icons always.

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