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Jul 17, 2014

The “Hamburger” Icon: Is It Even Helpful?

Eric Mobley, web designer and developer discusses the “ambiguous hamburger icon” and its mystery to users. To start off, the hamburger icon is a common icon used by designers to represent a hidden navigation menu when the user clicks on the icon.


Although this hamburger icon is widely used by web designers believing that everyone automatically understands what it represents,  the icon lacks any relevance to any time of navigation menu. Many large and popular websites such as Time and Google use this hamburger icon for a navigation menu.

Mobley brings up an interesting point. On a website, typically the ‘search’ icon looks like a magnifying glass and the ‘home’ icon looks like a home. However, the hamburger icon doesn’t  do a very good job of visually representing a hidden navigation menu. Web designers leave it up to the users to discover what this ambiguous icon represents.

Making it even more confusing, Mobley brings up the point how sites like Google use multiple icons to represent its hidden navigation. The hamburger icon is just one of a bunch of icons used to represent hidden navigation.

If one is on Google with a desktop computer, he shows us that the grid is used to represent the menu.



However, on an iPhone, Google uses the hamburger icon to represent the menu.



This is confusing for users to learn and understand multiple icons. Mobley asks a good question to consider: “How can we claim that the icon has achieved universal status when us designers have not come to a consensus ourselves?”

To make it clear for users that there is a hidden navigation system, Mobley recommends taking a few suggestions to make it easier for users:

  • Add a label to the icon like MENU
  • Make the icon look like a button
  • Spacing is important between other icons so users doesn’t get too confused with other elements in your header.


At Five Technology, our team of web designers understand exactly what your users and visitors are going to be searching for, and we know how to build strong and visually effective sites. If you’re seeking a great website design for your company, let’s chat!

Read the article by Eric Mobley.

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