The “hamburger button” is one of today’s more ubiquitous elements in UI design. It is also one of the more debated.
The hamburger button goes back a long way. See the Xerox Star Hamburger Button from 1981, for example.
Or the Windows 1.0 Hamburger Button from 1985.
Benefits of the hamburger include extensibility and a common presentation increasingly understood by users. The hamburger button also can reduce visual noise by hiding lesser used functions, or functions that require more labeling than the screen can accommodate. At least one well-circulated test seemed to indicate that use of the icon instead of links could help focus user attention and increase conversion rates. (Source)
Some people suggest the button does more harm than good, specifically when used with left nav flyouts on mobile (a scheme called Side Drawer Navigation). The alternative proposed is the Tab Bar. (Source)
There is some evidence that use of Side Drawer Navigation reduces engagement, at least when engagement is measured as “time in app”. (Source)
However, time in app is a disputed measure of engagement in many types of applications..
Attention Accounts imagine user attention as a finite resource that is spent down.
Joel’s Two Observations on UI are pertinent here.
The Daily WTF on the history (Source)
@ftrain’s Borland tweet
Windows 1.01 Simulator here