Courtney Eckerle

Marketing 101: What is a hamburger menu?

June 30th, 2017

There are no dumb questions, only dumb marketers who don’t bother to ask. That’s why we’ve decided to begin publishing quick, snackable posts that will help you expertly navigate any project, no matter what team you’re working with.

Today’s term is one you might encounter when working with your dev or design teams, and it has a particularly delicious moniker: the hamburger menu.

It’s something you’ve seen a thousand times before, and now you’re cocking your head thinking, “Huh. That DOES kind of look like a hamburger.”


With just three stacked lines, it’s easy to take up a different interpretation, so to those with alternate backyard BBQ tastes, it is less commonly, but also referred to as a “hotdog menu.” It has also been referred to as the “navigation drawer” or “basement.”

The hamburger/hotdog menu hides the longer site menu and makes it easier to view site navigations on mobile devices.

Now, as inconsequential as it may seem, the hamburger menu is often a critical design decision that is actually quite a divisive tactic.

Some view it as modern, sleek and an innovative way to de-clutter a mobile site, while others view it as a flash in the pan trend that sleeker, more thoughtful sites shouldn’t deign to use.

The issue many have with it is rooted in user experience, with the argument that it makes users go searching for content instead of providing it for them and, thus, can hurt user engagement. Basically, the “out of sight, out of mind” conundrum.

However, many companies and publishers can’t seem to break away from them — with the exception of an ellipsis version I found Ad Week using, which I’m hereby christening the “ice cream cone menu.”


What all this debate means is that you need to test. A/B split test to discover what your users like, what they find to be intuitive or not, and make a decision from there. The other option for testing is the top navigation drawer, like the one The Atlantic uses.

Hidden in the hamburger debate is the issue of goals: Where do you want people to go? What content is most important? If you can’t answer this question or, like many publications, have more content subjects than can reasonably be put into a top navigation drawer, the hamburger menu is a strong option.

You may see the hamburger menu everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s for you and your brand. As always, it’s about the customer — test to see if it works for them.

You might also like…

Mobile Marketing: How involved its customers in a responsive design campaign

B2B Marketing: How a website redesign and content audit influenced team relationships and increased average session time 34%

Testing and Optimization: Radical website redesign program improves lead gen 89%

Six Places to Focus to Make your Website a Revenue Generator

How Humana’s Strategic Testing Drove a 60% Increase in Customer Engagement

Courtney Eckerle

About Courtney Eckerle

With a focus on aspirational, customer-first marketing, Courtney’s goal has been to produce clear, interesting and actionable external content for MarketingSherpa readers. This has included writing over 300 case studies, moderating live event interviews, and producing video content. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Mass Communications and Film Studies from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and was a correspondent for USA Today College prior to joining MECLABS Institute.

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