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The notorious "Hamburger Menu" (ux-hamburger-drawer-icon.333-tr.s20) is now showing up more and more on large desktop and laptop screens. The actual navigation menu that summarizes the site structure requires clicking on it to show.

My experienced intuition tells me most people familiar with small touch screens understand the "hamburger menu pattern", and they understand that navigating the site will involve pushing that button.

My intuition also tells me there's lots of users with big screens that don't understand the pattern (or don't notice/click on the hamburger icon).

This is a fast moving issue. I do think the ratio of people that understand and access the hamburger icon is growing. The number of sites that use the hamburger icon on big screens is growing.

Without a doubt you pay a price for hiding your nav menu behind an icon, but what is that price? Any studies on that? Like an A/B test, site A shows the nav menu, site B shows a hamburger icon, A will get more clicks down into the site, but how many more?

I'm looking for any relevant modern statistics.

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    I'm not 100% sure whether this answers your question and therefore whether it's a duplicate? ux.stackexchange.com/questions/45019/… – DLM Jan 4 '15 at 23:04
  • @DLM that's a similar question but not the same. I think you're more or less stuck with nav accessed via hamburger button on small devices, and users of small devices understand the pattern. But I'm asking about accessing the nav menu via hamburger button on a big (desktop/laptop) device. I know there's a price to be paid for that in terms of people simply not noticing it, hence not finding what they might want to find. I'm looking for how much of a price you pay. Basically, I want to talk someone out of using hamburger nav on a desktop screen. – obelia Jan 6 '15 at 0:06
  • The price you pay is the user leaves your site for a competitor's site when they can't quickly find what they're looking for or making a split-second decision if this is the correct site in which to find the answer. Know your audience and then make the decision. – Mark Bubel Jan 6 '15 at 15:13
  • @MarkBubel - I'm trying to quantify that price, looking for current data to help me "make the decision". – obelia Jan 7 '15 at 4:22
  • Only you can quantify that. Try testing it, compare stats, translate to a price. This may help-- exisweb.net/hamburger-is-ok – Mark Bubel Jan 7 '15 at 20:35
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I can't come up with numbers but I can summarize a rationale. I agree with you. More and more people know what those 3 little lines do. But I have a different take on it. There is a reason for the hamburger menu to show up in mobile devices. Lack of screen space. Sure that has been rationlised by many commentators into saying, "we should only show what is relevent and most important on mobile screens without the frills" etc etc. All true but boils down to one thing.

The reason you are not able to show a navigation menu in a mobile screen is not because you don't want to but because you cannot.

Why would you want to?

  • To show the user they are in control.
  • To make the user notice this navigational element. Hamburgers can get lost in the big screen.
  • So the User can do what s/he wants in fewer clicks / interactions.
  • To show what the user can do. (Until they click the hamburger, how are they supposed to know what they can do through the menu?

The hamburger menu fundamentally disrupts an app's / site's capability to utilise all available screen space, neatly, to reach more levels / do more actions through the same UI instead of hiding behind menus. As an example you can look at GDrive on Android and on the Web. The larger screen format allows the user to do more because of the extra real estate.

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I'm often wary abut looking for niche, universal UX stats regarding things like this. The truth, as far as I'm aware, is that context is paramount in these decisions.

Example: Squarespace - it has moved its site to a hamburger-style menus. Why? Because many it's trying to showcase its website templates in a beautiful. Would people looking for big images prefer a menu in the way? Probably not. Therefore it's the right design for the context.

However, as a universal rule probably doesn't apply to this, we can instead try to build a result from basic UX principles:

  • The hamburger demands more clicks. More clicks are worse.
  • If the user needs to go through many pages, the experience of constantly opening a menu can get tiring
  • Speed is key for users - the menu opening animation could slowly drive them crazy.
  • It's less immediately obvious what content is on the site. That's bad.

A good blog post on the subject and a source for second and third bullet points

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