It seemed like a good idea at the time.  “Let’s put a hamburger on the desktop version of our new web site!”  “Good idea. It will signify our belief in the mobile-first world.”  “And it’s so simple, intuitive, edgy and elegant.”

So we launched this very web site on December 14, 2016 with a little hamburger in the top right corner.  Our web team was happy.  It looked good.  Yay for us!

To those of you who may not know:  when we say hamburger, we mean the three horizontal bars that serve as navigation for just about every mobile web site and app in the world these days.  You press the “hamburger,” and the navigation appears typically as a drop-down menu or flyover.  In the tiny space available on responsive mobile web sites and apps, it’s the norm these days.   It’s not just the mobile navigation solution du jour, it’s the mobile navigation solution du DECADE.  Ubiquitous and everyday. 

And since everybody in the world is glued to their smartphones all day, it would seem safe to assume that popular mobile conventions are widely known and recognized by even the most recreational of users.

The same evening we took the site live, we emailed a link to every WHITNEY employee to share the greatness of the new look, the extensive portfolio, the impactful copy, and especially we knew everyone was going to want to see their own fur-babies on the BFFs page.  In the email, we said, “Be sure to check out the People page on the site. You’re going to like it!”

Quickly the email responses poured in.  Every single one said the same thing:  “Where is the People page?  I can’t find it.”  

We replied with instructions, explaining the hamburger. They all then found the People page. As anticipated, they all loved the BFFs section.  

The web team convened the next day.  The previous night’s situation was discussed.  Everyone immediately and rather smugly agreed that these users (our own coworkers and staff) were not our target audience, and furthermore they were wrong. The hamburger was staying on desktop, dammit!  It was suggested that Robin should write the first blog post on the new site about this topic, in homage to the hamburger.

So, 24 hours later, I sat down in front of my laptop in the late evening to write a pithy post about the joys of hamburger desktop navigation.  I decided to do a little web research to be able to cite some of the overwhelming statistics about the universal user understanding of the hamburger.

I immediately found many online articles on the subject.   I digested about 30 of them in a short time.

And what a can of worms!  What a rude awakening! Article after article. Study after study. From Facebook to CNN to NBC to Spotify, said the hamburger on desktop is a bust. It may be “the designer’s dream,” but it’s a drag on navigation engagement.  A 30% drag, according to one source.

Now just 48 hours after our jubilant hamburger navigation launch, we have switched the navigation on this web site back to a traditional horizontal navigation bar across the top of each page..

Some long-standing beliefs and behaviors have been reinforced by this experience:  Do your research before changing a long-standing pattern.  Listen closely and be open to feedback (even if it’s just a handful of people you respect).  Do what works, even if it doesn’t look as cool.  And if you make a mistake, jump right in and fix it fast..

You may ask, is the hamburger on desktop gone from our bag of tricks?  Yes, for the time being we will be sticking to the traditional horizontal buffet, where users can see everything there is to feast on at one time… exactly where they expect it to be.

No hamburger for now? Forever? Somewhere in between?  In the lightening-fast world of change that is today’s digital space, your guess is as good as mine.  

Stay tuned.