Hamburger Wars


Hamburgers are much on our minds at systems@work these days. I don’t mean the hamburgers that my colleague, Mario, eats wherever he goes (he’s planning on eating a hamburger in every country in the world, but I tell him to make sure he’s carrying some statins!).

No, this is the kind of hamburger we’re talking about:


You probably see them every day, but I’m sure you don’t notice them. Doesn’t ring a bell? What about this?


Or this?



Now it must be clear. The hamburger wars are all about whether this little sandwich thing is a good way of providing a navigation tool in a browser on a mobile device. It’s certainly the prevailing convention. When menu options are too many to fit down the left or across the top of a mobile browser window, then most systems will crush them into a list that’s only visible when you click on the hamburger icon.

We’re redesigning the browser interface for all our systems@work products at the moment (time@work for professional services management, expense@work for expense management, and forms@work for forms workflow) and we’re rewriting the interface so that it works well on any device – a PC, a Mac, a tablet or a mobile (we’re excluding smart watches from consideration for the moment).

We’d all agree on using the hamburger, but when I went to look at what the programmers were doing yesterday, in the office, Ivan suddenly said he didn’t like hamburgers, and would I read an article he’d found that makes a very strong case against them. Couldn’t we have a scrollbar instead?

Kill the Hamburger Button!

Now the scrollbar he showed me didn’t look very elegant, so I put on a stubborn ‘we’ve already decided this issue’ face and said no. But he sent me the article anyway and when I read it I saw that he had a point. Hamburgers conceal their content, and experiment shows that people don’t click on it or tap on it because they can’t see what’s underneath it, in the filling, as it were. Better, apparently, to lay your options open with a scroll bar. The only thing is, how to make it look good?

So, I’ve lost the hamburger war, and we’ll work on our scroll bars instead. When I began my computing and programming career, computer terminals were green, and you just typed a command and it appeared where the cursor was blinking. You pressed enter and very little happened. Sometimes it just came back at you with ‘command syntax error’ (in green). Now it’s not enough to be a programmer. You’ve got to be a graphic designer, a psychologist, and an ergonomicist (is there such a thing?) and keep abreast of rapidly changing fashions. I commend Ivan for his watchful eye.

We’re hoping to release our up-to-the-minute new interface in June, so we’ve got to get our icons, scroll bars and options in order very soon.

Anyone want to argue in favour or the hamburger, or warn me of some other errors of taste we might inadvertently make?

Hot dogs? Panini? Crostini? Minestrone?


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