What is a hamburger menu?

Learn more about the hamburger menu in web design navigation, its origins, advantages and disadvantages, and alternatives for efficient web page design.

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A hamburger menu is a form of navigation on a website, used mainly on mobile devices and responsive web designs. It consists of an icon made up of three horizontal lines that resembles the shape of a hamburger. Tapping or clicking on the icon brings up a dropdown or overlay menu that displays the main navigation items on the web page. The background of this menu is often darkened so that the focus is on the displayed navigation.

Origin and spread of the hamburger menu

The hamburger menu was first introduced on the Xerox Star computer in 1981 and has since established itself as the standard for mobile navigation. With the increasing use of smartphones and tablets, the hamburger menu gained importance, as traditional navigation bars often take up too much space on small screens and make it difficult to use. This increased the popularity of this design element and it is now widely used on modern websites.

Advantages and disadvantages of the hamburger menu

The hamburger menu has several advantages over conventional navigation structures. Especially on mobile devices it helps to use the available space efficiently and to keep the user interface tidy. Since it has become very familiar, its operation is intuitive for most users.

However, there is also criticism of the use of the hamburger menu. One disadvantage is the lower visibility of the individual menu items and the associated reduced findability of important content. As a result, it can lead to reduced interaction with the website for some users. It is also sometimes less suitable in the desktop version, as more space is available and a traditional navigation bar may be clearer.

Alternatives to the hamburger menu

Even though the hamburger menu is widely used, there are alternatives that make more sense in some cases. Some websites use so-called tab bars or horizontal menu bars, where the most important menu items are always visible. Another option is staggered menus, where sub-items only appear when the parent item is clicked.

The choice of the appropriate navigation structure should be based on the individual needs of a website and always focus on simple and efficient operation by users.

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