Designers either love or hate hamburger menus. You love them because they’re a shortcut solution to information architecture problems or you hate them… for the exact same reason. It feels dirty hiding the menu behind the innocuous symbol. The widespread use of the icon has legitimised it in recent years but does that mean we should always use it?
In recent years, I’ve created a simple acronym to help decide how to approach designing website navigation. I use the analogy of food. If you’re hungry, you could eat a hamburger for lunch. A hamburger will fill you up but it’s rarely a healthy option. You can’t eat hamburgers every day as they’re usually high in cholesterol, fatty and expensive. The healthier option would be fruit.
F-R-U-I-T stands for Find the Right UI Treatment.
You probably eat fruit every day but you don’t eat hamburgers every day. Similarly in UX, hamburger menus shouldn’t be used in every single designed experience.
Website navigation needs to be given the right treatment depending on the circumstances. The right treatment could be a list of links on the page or a search field with predictive options or a hamburger menu for small, touch devices. Each of these treatments are tools we can use to help users find the information they need. These tools should always be used in moderation though. If a designer includes a hamburger in every experience they create, it’s likely they haven’t put enough consideration into how the information architecture works within the design ecosystem.
Analogies aside, the purpose of this post was to highlight the importance of focusing on solving user-centric experience problems rather than resorting to quick fixes. The hamburger icon has come to represent laziness within the design community but I believe there is a time and place to use them.
Stay healthy and go with F-R-U-I-T.