A few weeks ago I posted a screenshot of my current project on Twitter for #ScreenShotSaturday.
Here’s the image I used with lots and lots of placeholder art:
And I immediately got some great feedback on my user interface:
@GBGames and a hamburger menu! *sob*
— Dan MacDonald (@samuraidan) January 16, 2016
Wait, what’s a hamburger menu?
Oh, that three-lines menu thing has a name? And it’s “hamburger menu?”
I guess that’s apt.
So I looked it up and found a few good articles about why hamburger menus are terrible and should not be used anymore.
Why and How to Avoid Hamburger Menus by Louie A. digs into the problems with this kind of menu, including how it has low discoverability, and provides some alternative solutions, which requires reviewing your information architecture to see what is most appropriate.
I’m not a UX person, but I had a human-computer interaction major as a roommate in college, so I’m at least familiar with some of the terms. There’s more research to do, clearly.
Brent Jackson’s An Update on the Hamburger Menu was written as a follow-up to an article in which he argues that the hamburger menu never seems to be a good solution. He points out that since his first article many major apps have removed it, and when a major organization added it to their website, they seemed to have found a need to not only label it with the text “MENU” but also to pop up a notification to let people know that it is, in fact, a menu button. Ick.
So, no, hamburger menus still don’t seem useful, and now people have done A/B tests and have some experimental data about how less useful they are.
Basically it comes down to interface design patterns. Patterns rely on familiarity and emerge slowly over time. Most of the ones we use on the web today have been around for many years.
Users have plenty of new things to learn without adding contrived navigation patterns into the mix. Let’s stop trying to innovate device-specific interactions and leave it to the device manufacturers.
I recall when I first encountered a hamburger menu.
I hated them.
I hated them for all the reasons Louie A. says in his article.
I think it was on some artist’s fancy website which was trying to be super minimalist (a trend I hate) while being well designed. I just wanted to know who the artist was. Where was the About page?
Eventually I noticed the three thin lines in the corner of the screen, but I remember thinking, “Is that a minimalistic logo of some kind?”
Eventually I realized those lines were clickable, and I clicked. OH! There’s the navigation bar!
…What the heck? How was I supposed to know that those three lines are supposed to equate to navigation?
Then it showed up in Firefox and Thunderbird. It was subtle. I didn’t know it existed until I couldn’t find a way to do a somewhat common task when sending an email. There used to be a button to click at the top of the browser window. A quick search online later, and I shook my fist at the screen again.
And then it started showing up elsewhere and seemingly everywhere, and I felt resigned to it.
I’m wondering why I decided to use it in my own game’s interface. Maybe I was thinking, “Well, the kids are doing it these days…” but that’s no excuse for thoughtlessly throwing stuff onto a screen that my players will need to interact with.
I plan to replace the hamburger icon with another one. I’ve seen games use a gear or tools icon, which might be more appropriate here.
Or maybe I’ll find that those are annoying and terrible, too.