Our mobile homepage was redesigned recently. We were looking at a heatmap of clicks on the new design compared to the old. The new hamburger menu was getting a lot less clicks compared to the old navigation button. Our team is very good at keeping an eye on how changes on our website are affecting analytics. It is one of our earliest indicators of how changes affect our user experience.
Our heatmap suggested there was a problem. We needed to know why it’s a problem. We were able to identify possible causes even without conducting a usability study.
The Possible Culprits
- A speaker at An Event Apart noted that having the word Menu spelled out gets more clicks than the hamburger menu. Our old navigation had Menu spelled out. “But e-commerce customers are familiar with the hamburger menu!”, hamburger fans said. We were not the only mobile site using it. So we removed the Menu on the navigation icon.
- I had a problem with the placement of the hamburger menu. Instead of the top left corner beside the site logo, it was placed below the logo. Customers have been trained to look for a mobile site’s menu beside the site logo. Almost every mobile site places the menu here. Our unusual location makes the already vague-looking menu difficult to find. This argument was considered briefly, but we were not the only mobile site placing the menu here. So we placed the navigation below the site logo.
A Funny Coincidence
I decided to look at the other mobile sites that had this very unusual placement of the hamburger menu a few hours after the meeting. Lo and behold! They had moved their hamburger menu beside their site logo where their customers expected it to be.
They probably looked at their heatmap of clicks and noticed the same decrease in number!
Now wouldn’t it be hilarious if they spelled out the word, Menu, on their next iteration?
Just because another mobile site is doing the same thing does not mean it is the right change for your users. Usability tests are always a good idea!
It is hard to retrain users once they get used to something. They expect certain elements of mobile sites in specific places. If they don’t find them there, it becomes an obstacle to a smooth user experience.
The menu is a critical element of any website. Do not hide it! Do not make it look different. And do not play with its location. Spelling Menu out makes the navigation easy to find. Don’t make your users guess what elements in your website are.
Creativity is not a bad thing. Your challenge is to find ways to be creative within user experience guidelines.