Gerry McGovern: 00:00 Yesterday I was driving from Dublin to Carlow, so come with me on that drive for a moment and imagine we’re driving down the motorway and there’s no signs, but instead there’s little boxes every 10 kilometres or whatever at the side of the road and they’ve got a hamburger sign on them. And if I want to know how many miles or kilometres is still go to Carlow, which direction to go, I have to have to stop my car, get out of it, open the box, and it says Carlow, 50 kilometres.

That wouldn’t be a very good experience. It wouldn’t be a very clever thing to do, would it? Nobody would do that. But why do we do that on the web? Why do we, you know, hide the navigation from people? Why do we take away control from them?

Well, there’s a couple of reasons why, why we do it on the web. One is we can and we don’t see people crash and we don’t see people being frustrated. We don’t see the cost of stupid decisions that are often made.

Another is that we don’t want people to have control, that some marketer has said, no, I’m going to dominate this page with this latest program I have. Or some senior manager has said, oh no, this thing is the most important thing for us as a company and we don’t really care what the customer wants to do. We want to force them down this path. So imagine that on the drive to Carlow and I’m driving there and there’s no signs for Carlow or Kilkenny or anything like that. But there’s tons of signs from McDonalds and whatever else trying to get me because there’s a marketer has a target to increase the visits to a McDonalds in Kilkenny or something like that.

Well, that’s the way a lot of digital marketers and digital designers think that they can control people’s journey. Now, another reason, a, more legitimate reason is that you know that the vast majority of people want to do one thing. So it’s like you’re a hotel or you’re an airline and it’s book a flight, you know that’s 90 percent. So the next best thing to navigation is actually being there. So instead of having three links, one of them which says book a flight, you actually make the booking process, you know, on the page, it’s immediately doable. So you’re in Carlow straight away, you don’t even have to drive there. Now that’s a legitimate reason where you might hide substantial other quantities where you know, you have clear evidence that 90 percent of people or a very, very high percentage of people want to do stuff…


And finally, why do these things happen? Well they happen often accidentally and they happen because people get bored with design, and they happen because things are fads and you know, often unfortunately designers like shiny new things. Oh yeah. Cool. Yeah, that looks cool. And it’s often for, you know, non logical non strategic, but lemming-like, even though I don’t think lemmings follow each other nearly as much as humans follow each other, trends that are stupid. We’ve been doing this navigation like this for five years. Let’s do a redesign. I mean, how stupid is that? If you went into an airport and said, I really don’t like the way you’ve been doing the exit sign. It’s been like that for 10 years. It’s always red. Let’s change the colour. Let’s give the exit sign a refresh. I mean they’d get kicked out at the airport, they’d get kicked off the motorway. Some things you don’t redesign. I mean they work, and navigation is a particular function of that. If it’s actually getting people there faster, if it’s working really well, every three years, you don’t refresh it because you’ve got bored with Carlow, you’re let’s rename Carlow. I never liked the name anyway. Let’s give it another name every three years just to give it a nice refresh. Nobody would ever do that. But we constantly do those things in digital because we actually don’t really understand the digital, we design for it but enough within it, often. We don’t see the experience people have.

So anyway, that’s my rant on the hamburger menu.

Gerry Scullion: 04:30 So you see like, there’s a bad pattern is what I’m hearing here, there’s a bad pattern that’s emerged that we’ve inherited over the last decade, I suppose. So how did it originate?

Gerry McGovern: 04:43 Yeah, it originated I think in some  hardware mainframe world and it is, like you said, Gerry, you know, there’s good memes and there’s bad memes, there’s viruses that get infected into digital and there probably was a reason, but you think of it, you know, Oh, we need more space…

And it particularly came in obviously in mobile, we need more space. Mobile is a small space. So what did we take away? Oh, we’ll take away the most critical thing to people, you know, so that we can have that big picture of a smiling fake face pretending to be a customer, you know, in the process and Luke Wrobleski in Google has shown in study after study, after study, you hide navigation, you reduce all the good things you want to do, selling stuff, getting people to do… You hide the navigation, you take away it control from people, less stuff happens on your site.

Gerry Scullion: 05:47 It’s funny because the metaphor of using the signpost is brilliant, but it’s almost from what I’m hearing it’s more like taking away the steering wheel in the car… because it’s directing you where you need to get to and you’re, you’re kind of removing that step.

Gerry McGovern: 06:00 Yeah or you have to go and find the steering wheel or unlock the steering while. It’s like that concept of either facilitating control, figuring out, I want to go to Carlow and I’m not going to go to Cork and I’m not going to go to McDonalds because I have to get to Carlow. You know? It’s that sense of treating people as independent actors rather than treating them as somebody you can convince to do something that they don’t want to do. And I’m not saying you can’t, that There aren’t subtleties of showing them interesting stuff, but if they want to go to Carlow, if they want to get a product, if they want to do troubleshooting or whatever, you know, that’s what they want to do. And that’s, I think that’s a core principle that we need to buy into, that we design with people to allow them to take control rather than to try and control them.

Gerry Sculliion: 06:59 So Gerry Gaffney, I remember we worked together a couple of years ago and I remember Gerry Gaffney saw the hamburger in one of my interfaces, I don’t think I’ve ever been hit that hard actually come to think of it. But it’s quite funny because I never used it after that. It’s almost like it becomes second nature when you, when you’re doing mobile screens and you’re, you’re trying to do it fast prototypes and you’re trying to get that sort of that feedback quick and ready. You just be kind of, you expect it to be there. So what, what are your thoughts on the learned experience over time? So the likes of people who were 16, you know, 10 years ago are now 26. I’m great at maths! And they might have learned that experience of the hamburger equals menu.

Gerry Gaffney: I reckon the learned experience meme is bullshit to be honest. Look, to play devil’s advocate, I’m looking at my NAB, which is a local bank here, looking at the app and they’ve got a hamburger menu up the top left. And really it’s relatively well done because I’m in NAB, I can see my accounts and the balances of them and if I click on any of those accounts where the options up there is Pay. So practically everything that I ever do is accessible to me without going to the hamburger. But you know, people, the learnability thing I think is, you know, is a little bit of a false perception. I see it a lot with, you know, a lot of developers. I think use-centred designers as well, they say, oh, well, you know, everybody knows how to use the hamburger, everybody knows what it means. I’ve made a point in usability test sessions and when I’m out and about observing people either formally or informally, using things, I say, What are those three lines? And quite often from relatively sophisticated users, the answer is I don’t know. And even for people who do know what it is, it’s so effective at hiding whatever you want to have in there that, you know, essentially you’re taking it away. But what’s the solution to this, you know, on a, particularly on a smaller screen the hamburger is very efficient.

And you can argue that if you add the word menu…

Gerry McGovern: But Gerry, you gave the answer there in your bank, the page is navigation, you know, your page is not an image, it’s not a useless thing. It’s your account and you can transfer. So what, what that bank has done is they’ve dominated at the centre of the screen with navigational components that are the top tasks for you. And that’s okay. You know, that the other stuff which is the long tail, you have to hide it in the process. So it’s not hard, an exercise of saying, well what’s the top three things that really… okay, so they want to transfer money, they want to check… and even cleverer, like as I said, well what’s the next better thing to a good signpost? It’s been there. It’s that when you open up your app it says, your current account has $60,000 in it, because they know you’re always checking your account balance. They don’t even wait, they actually bring it to the front. So doing that sort of stuff, that’s fine. And then you hide the stuff that’s really low demand. But in many cases the hamburger hides the high demand stuff.

Gerry Scullion: 10:14 So you’re saying is it more… It’s less about interface design and more about information architecture is what I’m hearing. It’s more like the problem needs to be solved in the architecture of the system as opposed…

Gerry McGobvern: …I suppose the problem needs to be solved in truly understanding why somebody is here and what, what it is that they want to do. And if they’re coming to a bank and you know that people are always checking their balance. Clever banks now are bringing the balance figure even before the login in your app so that you get your balance figure. You don’t even have to log in and there are legal implications that I’d accept. But there are ways around it in apps and things like that so that you really, you’re designing for getting them there quickest, that the thing that matters most to them. And you know, you hide the stuff that needs to be hidden. But often in this hamburger model you’re hiding the core stuff because you’re pushing a marketing campaign or you’re… You’re taking away control. Once you’re always, you know, designing from a point of view of let’s put people in control, then good things happen.

Gerry Scullion: 11:26 Yeah. There is the risk that it becomes a little bit more of a dumping ground, like within that hamburger…

Gerry McGovern… It does. When you don’t have to think about it, the hamburger often becomes that dumping ground because, Ah we’ll will put all the navigation in the hamburger. So then it becomes a classical dumping ground. So it’s like you have to think and say, well what’s the top three things? And then you have a “more” link or something for the other stuff in the process.

Gerry Gaffney: So is it ever okay to use a hamburger menu in your design?

Gerry McGovern: Well I think it’s the idea of… What is it? It’s a hiding device. So if you have the overwhelming task, like book, a flight or Google Maps, and the map begins in the process, then you know, that can be suitable. But even you see in Google Maps, you see, you see the map and then at the bottom you see restaurants or stuff, you’re seeing those top things that… Because I travel an awful lot, so I’m always using Google Maps to get places or walk or stuff like that or you don’t. And I’m often looking for a restaurant and so even the dominant task has often these really important sub tasks in that task. But I think you will always use some sort of navigation to hide the minor stuff. You know, there is stuff you want to hide, but you need to make sure that it’ll be at level three or level four, but you need to make sure that it’s the right stuff that you’re hiding and you’re not hiding the critical stuff to the customer.

Gerry Gaffney: 13:07 So you’re OK if we use a hamburger menu, as long as the primary navigational purposes and primary tasks are covered off in the, in the screen without using that hamburger.

Gerry McGovern: Yeah, and I would just call it “more” as well, Gerry, because you know, as you’ve all found [that] hamburgers that actually have the word “menu” in front of them performed much better. Why do we need, if you’re going to have an icon, you really need a word. I mean icons on their own are rarely… But that’s another discussion. But why not just say, you know, you’ve got transfer money, your account and then “more”, you know. So the “more” is all the… and you can call it a hamburger or whatever, but often a word is a more clear form of helping people get to the other stuff than an icon.

Gerry Gaffney: 14:03 I know that people will put the argument that the Scully put earlier on or, well not as an argument but a proposition that people learn what the hamburger means so we don’t actually need the word “more” in there, or “menu” or any word like that.

Gerry McGovern: But we shouldn’t be… It’s not school. You know, we’re not, we’re not teachers, you know, it’s not… Like I could have learned early on, how to, you know, light a wicker lamp, but I preferred to electricity. You know, I don’t want to light a wicker lamp. I don’t want to go through six steps to turn the light on. I prefer to turn it on in one step if you made it easier for me.

Gerry Scullion: What I’m hearing here is, if your prominence in your navigation on your patterns that you’re using is more about using the hamburger, You move away from that and use more supporting links within the interface itself to understand the journey is that…

Gerry McGovern: 15:00 I think it’s the philosophical principle of, how do we put people in control… And maybe it’s a search box that dominates. Sometimes I see environments, in very, very complicated environments, mega, mega, mega websites that, you know, searching everything like Google. It’s a search box because the architecture is so complicated. You know, there is no top tree in the process. There’s so many, you know, there isn’t a clarity, so then you need to focus on the search box, but the search box better work, you know. If you’re going to dominate the structure with the search box in the process, you really have to have an invested in a quality search. A by dominating with the search I don’t mean that you neglect the architecture, it’s just that the architecture is so complicated, there aren’t a top three or top four that stand out in the process.

Gerry Scullion: 16:02 It’s funny because I’ve had the argument, you know, obviously Gerry Gaffney hit me very hard to couple of years ago when I used it last, but I remember at that time some of the other visual designers and the team were like, well, you know, if Amazon are using it… And Amazon do use it and that’s the most successful website on the Internet. So what advice would you give to designers?

Speaker 1: 16:23 if you see, so many of them are moving away from it, you know, Luke Wroblewski again, loads of data of when they move away from it. And if you notice now, a lot of sites are bringing in either the bottom nav, obviously the bottom nav for mobile, because it’s close to the thumb and stuff like that. But there’s a huge shift away from that menu because it doesn’t work. And all the evidence, all the evidence out there, I mean, one site that Google worked with, 600 percent increase in activity on the site after they introduced a navigation. So there’s tons of data that shows this doesn’t work… And we copy bad practice and stuff gets embedded in the environment, sometimes for the wrong reasons. So if we’ve got evidence that it’s working, it’s working, but the evidence, all the evidence, all the evidence I’ve seen is that it doesn’t. And I think if you look at the Facebooks, look at all the environments… There’s a minor argument that it still should reside in the mobile environment if you’ve got those dominant tasks and you put them on the page. But certainly on the desktop, it’s a crazy, it’s a crazy solution.

Gerry Scullion: I’m looking at my own website here and I think, I think I might change…[Laughter.] But I’ve got the word “Menu” beside it… so I’m not totally dead…

Gerry Gaffney: We’ll forgive you.

Gerry McGovern: For now. We’re coming back next week after you, Gerry!