Hamburger Menu Alternatives (2021): How to Improve Your Mobile Navigation

It’s a common knowledge that navigation is among the core factors that define the future success of any website. Frankly speaking, choosing the right navigation can be a tricky task, especially when it comes to mobile navigation. Such a little space and so many things you want to include! So, it’s not surprising that a lot of mobile websites and apps use hamburger menus to avoid clutter. However, is this choice always able to provide their visitors with the best user experience? Unfortunately, it isn’t. In this article, we’ll explain why hamburger menus aren’t the best solution for the majority of mobile websites. Moreover, we’ll offer several effective hamburger menu alternatives capable of improving your mobile navigation.

The Drawbacks of the Hamburger Menu

Hardly there’s an Internet user nowadays who isn’t familiar with a hamburger menu. These three lines in the top corner of the website have recently become one of the biggest trends for mobile navigation. Thousands of people have given preference to them while building responsive websites with an easy website creator. To tell the truth, it’s quite explainable. The hamburger menu is clean and compact. It helps save the precious mobile screen space. Nevertheless, it definitely can’t be called an ideal solution for mobile navigation.

First and foremost, the hamburger menu lowers discoverability. Being a kind of hidden navigation, it significantly slows down exploration and decreases engagement. According to the Nielsen Norman Group research, hidden mobile navigation cuts down discoverability almost in half.

Secondly, the hamburger menu increases the task difficulty. Believe it or not, there are some users who get confused when they don’t see common menu options. However, even if they know how to use this type of navigation, all the same, it introduces navigation friction. Your users have to open the menu in order to find and reach their objective.

Finally, the hamburger menu augments the time spent on the task. Hidden mobile navigation slows down the completion of the task by up to 15%. Thus, it worsens the user experience.

Do Hamburger Menu Alternatives Improve the Situation?

Whereas the hamburger menu hides important navigation options, hamburger menu alternatives make them visible or, at least, partially visible. Therefore, engagement increases.

For instance, when Facebook abandoned their hamburger menu, they saw a significant rise of several UX metrics. The latter included engagement, satisfaction, revenue, and speed. Another example is Redbooth. As soon as they moved to one of the hamburger menu alternatives, customers began using their app more frequently. The number of sessions almost doubled. The session time increased by 70%.

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Do you want more inspiring examples to start using hamburger menu alternatives? Take time to read Obvious Always Wins by Luke Wroblewski, Product Director at Google. You’ll find various before-and-after examples showing the success of those mobile apps which switched to hamburger menu alternatives.

Smart Hamburger Menu Alternatives for Mobile Navigation

Hope, now you understand that hamburger menu alternatives are your chance to improve mobile navigation. So, it’s high time to get acquainted with some of them. Let’s do it without further ado.

Tab Bar Navigation

Tab bars are the most common solution among hamburger menu alternatives. They are just ideal if your mobile website has not more than 5 menu items.

The main advantage of the tab bar navigation is its visibility. Such a menu allows users to see all the navigation options right from the start. Your visitors have to do just one click to immediately switch to the section they want. Moreover, tab bar navigation tells your users what page they are on at the moment.

There are two variations of tab bar navigation. You can use it either at the top of the page or at the bottom of the screen. To tell the truth, the bottom variant is more convenient. It doesn’t make users scroll anywhere. It’s in front of their eyes all the time.

Possibly, someone would say that this hamburger menu alternative is neither cool nor high-tech. Nevertheless, it does a great job for such online celebrities as Instagram and Flipagram.

Tab Bar with a “More” Option

Tab bar navigation with a “More” option is a perfect solution if your navigation menu has more than 5 items. It allows you to display four main sections and label the fifth menu item as “More”. The “More” item can open a drop-down menu or a navigation drawer with the remaining sections.

Of course, someone can say that this type of hamburger menu alternatives has a hidden part. However, it’s definitely better than hamburger menus because the most important items are always visible. The only problem is to correctly choose those primary navigation options which visitors see at once.

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It’s quite obvious that such a choice may seem a challenging task. Nevertheless, it’s not so difficult. Just imagine that you’re moving to a smaller house. Then decide what you’d like to have within reach, and what can be stored on the attic. If you prioritize properly, the majority of users will be completely satisfied with your mobile navigation.

Progressively Collapsing Navigation

Progressively collapsing navigation is another variant of hamburger menu alternatives that may arouse your interest. This kind of menu is a more sophisticated version of the tab bar with a “More” option. This menu type adapts to the width of the screen. This means that it shows the maximum number of navigation options the particular device screen allows. The wider the screen is, the more sections your visitors see. The remaining menu items are waiting in the “More” section if there isn’t enough space for them.

Progressively collapsing navigation is really a great solution for responsive design. Firstly, it employs all the best features of hamburger menus. It’s mobile-friendly, toggle-able, and works with off-canvas navigation drawers. Secondly, due to smart space utilizing and prioritizing it keeps the optimal “desktop view” as long as possible.

Scrollable Navigation

Scrollable navigation is one more type of hamburger menu alternatives that deserves your attention. It’s really helpful when it’s too difficult to prioritize the menu options and decide which of them to hide. In such a case, you can list all your menu items in a scrollable view. It will allow your users to move from side to side to discover more options.

This kind of mobile navigation works well for the websites whose visitors are eager to explore the content through scrolling. Online stores or news websites can undoubtedly benefit from it.

If you go for scrollable navigation, there’s one thing to bear in mind. You should make your visitors understand that horizontal scrolling will reveal more menu items. So, don’t forget to give them a visual hint. Use fades, arrows or any other variant of visual indicators.

Vertical Lettering Navigation

Vertical lettering navigation is one of the latest web design trends. Though this hamburger menu alternative isn’t too widespread yet, it’s definitely worth mentioning.

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Vertical lettering navigation stretches along the left side of the screen from the bottom up to the top. Being a narrow line, it occupies little space. At the same time, it is highly visible because it stands apart from the horizontally-oriented content. Moreover, vertical lettering navigation is completely understandable and is always at the reach of your left thumb.

Full-Screen Navigation

The main principle of full-screen navigation differs greatly from other hamburger menu alternatives. Whereas all mentioned before types are aimed at saving the screen space, full-screen navigation occupies it completely. Are you ready to devote the entire home page to navigation? Then this alternative is for you.

Full-screen navigation works well for the task-based and direction-based mobile websites and apps. It allows you to organize large amounts of information in a coherent manner. Also, it helps your visitors focus on the content they really need. Full-screen navigation is like a road with signs that show a driver all possible directions. Your visitors look through the variants and take a decision where to go. As soon as they make a choice, they are able to concentrate on the content of the individual section.

Which of the Hamburger Menu Alternatives Is the Best One?

Frankly speaking, there’s no one-fit-all solution when it comes to hamburger menu alternatives. None of the ideas listed above is better or worse than others. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, they say. The same is true for hamburger menu alternatives. Each of them has its pros and cons depending on the content of your mobile website and its targeted audience. So, the best thing is to experiment and test the result on real users. Perhaps, it’s the only possible way to find out which alternative works better exactly for you.

To sum up, don’t waste time and start improving your mobile navigation right now. Analyze your website content and the targeted audience. Choose one of hamburger menu alternatives you think will suit the best. Use it on your mobile website and evaluate the results. In a word, take care of your visitors’ user experience. It will definitely hasten the desired success of your website.

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