This post discusses the idea of using the Hamburger Menu Icon on desktop and how it influences the overall simplification of the web experience.
We met the infamous hamburger menu icon in a previous post and we talked about its pros and cons. It’s an oddly controversial little icon and there seems to be a pretty distinct line in the sand taken by people on it. Not quite red state/blue state, but you get the idea. If you couldn’t guess, I was on the “Yes! I love it!” side. I love it for it’s simplicity and I believe that in time (everything’s eventual, right?) it will shed its skin of questionability and become as easily recognizable as the magnifying glass. In time through unflinching repetitive use.
And staying true to this idea of education through repetition, I’ve begun to see the hamburger icon step out of my phone and onto my desktop. Eeek! The horror! Say it ain’t so! Is it a good thing? I’d say that depends on whether or not you like it in the first place. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier. But my reasoning/opinion probably isn’t what you expect.
Movin’ On Up
It was bound to happen eventually, right? With how prolific WordPress templates have gotten and the way us sneaky designers love clean and uncluttered layout, I’m surprised it took this long for the hamburger menu to pop up on my desktop. But here, all its warts and dimples and percieved poor user-experience are on even greater display. We know it breaks with tradition, but it still hasn’t stopped its usage from moving “up” to the desktop. And why should it? The mobile platform overtook the desktop as the preferred device for viewing websites somewhere around 2014 and has continually grown. And since then, designers have been (should be) shifting from a mobile-friendly to mobile-first mentality. So there is bound to be some carry over when you reverse engineer the process. It’s not an excuse, just a basic fact of life.
Movin’ On Over
If you are focusing on mobile-first and with greater frequency, the line between making the experience on mobile and desktop different will begin to get blurrier and blurrier until they are one in the same. I mean, doesn’t the very idea of a responsive website dictate that these are the same thing just scaled to different sizes? I understand you CAN change the experience with larger screen and a bigger footprint, but why SHOULD we? Shouldn’t we be simplifying the overall experience in it’s totality and not just on our phones? I’d like to think so. Isn’t that the end goal of web designers and UX experts on a whole? Simplification. To me, the movement to use the hamburger icon on desktop is a sign of this. It’s a natural step. I once (and wrongly) thought that the mobile experience should be different, but since then I’ve seen the light and spent an ungodly amount of time on phone. I now look at them as the same thing. And when they are not, I’ll always shift to the toned down and more focused experience I get on my phone (I’m looking at you, Facebook). I’m one of those people that probably helped push mobile beyong desktop. Not just by habit and muscle memory, but because I mostly just prefer being spoon fed content. Not having it all shoved down my throat at once.
“Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
Movin’ Right Along
Maybe that’s really what it comes down to: simplification and the adversity within. All designers (UX included) seemed to be constantly and consistently challenged to make sense of something complex. It’s not always easy. But for the sake of our own sanity, we look to sometimes untraditional or selfishly satisfying solutions. I know we all like to think we have the client in mind for 100% of our process and output, but it would be silly to think that some part of “you” and your personal preference/experience doesn’t come out in your solution. (But to all our clients reading this, it really is you first 100% of the time. Cross my heart.) So sometimes there will be trade-offs one is willing/forced to make to accomplish the task at hand. Again, I’m not making an excuse, I’m saying sometimes you need to trim the fat to create focus. Adding a hamburger menu to your desktop site does just that.
Movin’ On Down
Those three little lines force the user to focus their attention on on-page content first. Starting at the top and moving on down. The other side of the coin, however, is at what cost? What are you “losing” by “hiding” navigation? I spoke about that in my previous post and it hasn’t changed. But I like to think about what I’m “gaining” instead. I’m gaining more focus for the story our clients are telling. I’m gaining control over more organic navigation through a website via on-page calls-to-actions and content that is related or relative. I’m giving users less to choose from in order for them to focus more succinctly on their own web journey. I’m purposefully trying to present a simplified (mobile?) experience on the desktop. In a weird way, I’m demoting primary navigation and promoting on-page content to be the navigational driver. (You can read about that in Part 3)
I know there will be push back, and rightly so. This sort of thinking flies in the face of tradition. But I’m OK with that. I’d be disappointed if there wasn’t. Heck, I’m someone who doesn’t even believe in the idea of a homepage being more important over any other page anymore. Working with content heavy websites has given me a change of heart on what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. And like I said, it was bound to happen eventually. Everything does.