Hamburger Menu vs. Tab Menu: Which Is Better For Mobile App?

What Are Some Alternatives To The Hamburger Menu?

When it comes to your mobile device, screen space is a precious resource in web design. The foundation of web design is based on your users’ needs.

Web designers rely on hiding navigation behind the hamburger menu.

The hamburger menu is a hidden navigation feature that meets the challenge of a small screen space. It’s not an actual hamburger. Instead, it consists of three horizontal lines that people refer to as a hamburger.

A few years ago, web designers couldn’t stop praising the hamburger menu icon.

Now, the tide has turned and many experts agree that the hamburger icon creates a bad user experience.

There’s also the argument that hamburger menus decrease discoverability of features because everything is hidden by default.

Josh Constine of TechCrunch infamously referred to the tool as “the Devil,” saying what’s out of sight, is out of mind.  And Facebook abandoned the feature a few years ago.

Even Spotify got rid of its hamburger menu after extensive showing showed it was benefiting their user experience.

Web Design And Hamburger Menu Fort LauderdaleSpotify tested the tab bar on iOS to see how it impacted user engagement. Spotify found that users with the tab bar ended up clicking 9 percent more in general and 30 percent more on actual menu items.The tests also revealed that reducing the number of options in the tab bar to five increased the reach of Spotify’s programmed content.The findings showed that new users engaged more with the navigation menu in their first sessions than they did when the hamburger menu was present.

Some web designers recommend using a hidden navigation bar that appears when you scroll up and down as a better substitute.

Based on the principles of web design, the hamburger menu is a form of bad friction. It forces a user to think about the hamburger menu’s function which acts as a deterrent to navigating the site.

It’s also inefficient at navigation on an app because it requires you to click the menu before being able to click the link or icon which directs you to your intended destination.

Is The Hamburger Menu Mobile-Friendly?

The hamburger menu is a hidden feature.

One of the main points experts make against using the hamburger menu is its low discoverability.

Research by the NNGroup showed that hidden navigation is less discoverable than visible or partially visible navigation.

This means that when navigation is hidden, users are less likely to use navigation. Hamburger menus drive engagement down, slow down exploration and confuse people.


Web Design And Menus Fort Lauderdale


What Are Some Alternatives To The Hamburger Menu?

Consider user experience.

User experience doesn’t just apply to a desktop computer. It applies to your mobile devices as well.

When you’re designing a website for a mobile app, the main navigation must be visible.

You can feature a visible navigation bar or a combo navigation bar to help visitors move through your website.

This article will discuss the following types of menus so you can understand which is best for you:

  • Scrollable Navigation Menu
  • Tab Bar Menu
  • Progressively Collapsing Menu
  • Full Screen Navigation Menu

Should I Use A Scrollable Navigation Menu Instead Of A Hamburger Menu?


A scrollable navigation menu is suitable for longer lists.

Lets say you have a many navigating options without a big distinction in priorities.

For example, if your website focuses on music and you want to list the different genres of music. You can list them all in a scrollable navigation menu.

When you use a scrollable list, you give users the option to move from side-to-side.

Websites that focus on news, music or clothes typically utilize a scrollable navigation menu when visitors are expected to explore content.



Should I Use A Tab Bar Menu Instead Of A Hamburger Menu?

Web Design And Tab Bar Menu Fort Lauderdale

A tab bar is a navigation menu that organizes content or landing pages by tabs.

In web design, specifically for apps, tab bars have become the go-to alternatives to a hamburger menu. When a menu is visible at the top, visitors to a website can see the navigation options right from the start.

Facebook infamously switched to a tab bar menu and never looked back.

A tab bar is the simplest navigation pattern because it lets you present a limited number of top-level destinations in your website. A typical tab bar menu offers 5 or less options to display.

A tab bar follows the principles of web design.

However, a few things should be considered when designing this type of navigation.

Tab bar menu lets you display 5 or fewer navigation options.

Let’s say you want more out of your tab bar. You can add an enhanced tab bar menu which gives you the option of adding more than displays.

However, an enhanced tab bar menu must be hidden to a degree.

Web designers suggest prioritizing the first four sections by making them visible. The remaining tabs can be a list of remaining options tucked in the ‘more’ bar. The ‘more’ tab works in two ways—as a dropdown menu or by linking to a separate navigation page with the remaining sections.

When you create a tab bar menu, you must also follow a few guidelines so it can be effective.

Rules For Creating A Tab Bar Menu:

  • One of the options in your tab bar menu must be active
  • Highlight your active tab with a contrasting color so it stands out
  • The first tab must be the home page
  • The order of the tabs must follow a system
  • The tabs must be arranged either logically or as it relates to your content
  • Use icons with labels for each navigation option

While the tab bar menu is similar to the hamburger menu in regards to hiding content, it excels where the hamburger menu falters. Unlike the hamburger menu, the tab bar menu shows users 4 or 5 visible top-priority navigation options on the screen all the time.



Should I Use A Progressively Collapsing Menu Instead Of A Hamburger Menu?

Another alternative to the hamburger menu is the priority+ pattern menu.

The priority+ menu is also referred to as the collapsing menu.

Its beneficial because it adapts to the screen width and still shows as much of the navigation  as possible. Like the tab bar menu, it gives you the option to hide other tabs through a more button. The flexibility of this solution provides a better user experience than a ‘static’ ‘Tab bar  + more’.

Should I Use A Full-Screen Navigation Menu Instead Of A Hamburger Menu?

The full-screen pattern menu devotes the home page exclusively for navigation. This type of menu is effective for revealing in-depth information without overwhelming the user.

To see other menu options with the full-screen pattern menu, visitors must tap or swipe as they scroll up and down.

The full-screen pattern menu works well in websites that focus on a task or direction for you to complete.

Web designers can organize large chunks of information in a coherent manner with the full-screen navigation menu.

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