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Traditional vs Hamburger Menus: Which is Right for Your Website?

Discover the pros and cons of traditional and hamburger menus and decide which one is the best fit for your website's user experience.

Picking the correct way for a user to navigate around your webpages is quintessential to a functioning, well-crafted website. Designing a website is difficult, and with so many small but impactful decisions to make, it can be difficult to know whether you're making the right choices.

Navigational elements are important in keeping the metrics of your webpage up. Making your website easy to navigate should be a priority in your overall strategy of building a website.

Companies should recognize that many users value navigational buttons of some form to orient themselves and it can therefore be used to advertise your best pages and ultimately win a customer, whether you're using a traditional menu or a hamburger menu.

Traditional menus are often favored amongst designers. A single line of menu options immediately presents the user with all of the categories and options they need to effectively navigate around the website and find what they came to your site for.

Unfortunately, the hamburger menu hides this information which is not as effective for the visibility of other content pages. Traditional menus come in different forms, allowing you still have flexibility in the layout of your page.

However, there is definitely something to be said for the effectiveness of hamburger menus in terms of screen space optimization. By hiding the navigation menu, there is more room for the eye-catching content you really want your user to see on the homepage.

Keeping the menu items behind the iconic hamburger icon not only allows for a more minimalist aesthetic, but also means there are less distractions for the user, naturally guiding their attention to the content instead.

Consider this article your comprehensive guide in deciding which menu might be right for your website by weighing up the pros and cons and clarifying what is meant by 'traditional menu' vs a 'hamburger menu'.

What is a traditional menu?

When using the term 'traditional menu', we are referring to a navigation menu in the form of a bar in the webpage that directly displays links.

Rather than having a menu button, traditional menus present all the information to the user immediately when entering the site. These menus often display links in a horizontal form along the top of the page (arguably the most popular) or vertically down the side of the page.

The dropdown menu is another alternative to both more traditional menus and the hamburger menu.

Advantages and disadvantages of traditional menus

In order to know which menu is the right choice for your webpage, it is important to understand the advantages of the more classic, traditional menu design, compared to the hamburger menu. This classic design definitely has more reverence in the design world and there's a reason—it is a tried and tested success amongst users.

However, there are also some downsides to it, especially as the world edges further into a more mobile-heavy place. Smaller screens mean less screen space!


As the digital landscape evolves, it's tempting to focus solely on new and emerging technologies when designing a website. However, in some cases, traditional website menus may still be the best option for delivering a user-friendly experience to your visitors.

Explore the advantages of using a traditional website menu and why it may be the right choice for your website.

Clear and visible navigation structure

Traditional navigation bars are useful in directing your user to your best pages, as well as helping them find exactly what they are looking for without having them spend time and effort clicking through a variety of things.

Comprehensive view of website content

This user friendly design also provides an effective, overarching view on everything your website has to offer. This can pique the users interest in other topics that they see and encourage them to explore more of the pages on your website.

Can accommodate a larger number of links and categories

Especially effective on desktop versions of your website, the traditional menu can house a large number of relevant categories with links around the website. This gives you space to effectively summarize your products in categories.

For instance, if you are building a website for a small business, this could be a useful way to concisely show what products or services you are selling via relevant categories—very useful for those who might not be as aware of your brand/company.

More accessible for users with disabilities

Less clicking means the website is more user friendly to everyone, including those with disabilities.


While traditional website menus have been a staple of web design for many years, they are not without their drawbacks. As web technologies and user preferences evolve, traditional menus may not always be the best option for delivering a seamless user experience.

Adds clutter to the page

Traditional menus prevent your webpage from looking as clean as they demand more attention from the user's eye. Keeping the page tidier, with less information allows you to easily emphasize the main content you want the user to see.

Not as effective for mobile devices

If you are creating a mobile app, then the traditional menu may not be as effective. This style of menu takes up a lot of space on the screen, making the area for your content much smaller. This is a big disadvantage to consider if you are wishing to create a webpage for both mobile and desktop users.

What is a hamburger menu?

The hamburger menu is a form of navigation menu that hides navigation links from the main page. Instead, the user simply clicks on the hamburger icon to view the menu and explore the other pages from there. This is marked by a menu icon which consists of three horizontal lines stacked on top of one another—like layers of a hamburger.

This iconic hamburger button has grown in popularity, so much so that it has become an extremely recognizable icon, almost akin to the speaker icon that signifies volume. Users universally know that those three horizontal lines will lead to a list of links (also known as a navigation drawer), usually in the form of a sliding menu to look through.

These menu items will appear over the top of the main content and list a series of links to other pages they might want to explore on the website.

The hamburger menu is typically used for mobile apps as it is very accommodating to smaller screens and mobile devices. However, it can also be helpful on desktop websites—for instance if there are too many pages you need to link to in your navigation bar.

When done correctly, a hamburger menu limits the clutter on your page, allowing you to shrink several of the links into one compact main menu. This off canvas menu creates a cleaner, less cluttered webpage—something that users have been known to respond to positively.

There are many different designs of the hamburger menu, each catered towards different designs and purposes. By familiarizing yourself with the various different styles, you can decide whether your menu appears across the whole screen, whether it appears in a small bubble in the corner, or whether it only takes up half of the screen.

One of the most popular hamburger menu examples is the responsive hamburger menu. This method uses pure CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) only and it replaces the standard, horizontal menu to a responsive menu that allows lists containing navigation links to be opened one after the other.

Another great example is the simple centered hamburger menu—an option that transforms the three lines to another symbol, such as a cross or an arrow. This use of icon animation is effective in showing the user that they simply have to tap the icon again to get out of this main menu.

There is a variety of icon animations to choose from, all transforming that ubiquitous three lined icon into a new shape. Using this method, the menu slides into view and displays the navigation links in the center.

The hamburger icon is commonly used in either of the top corners of the web page. If the webpage is geared towards an audience of native speakers that read left-to-right, many favor the top left corner as this is concurrent with the way they read and these users will immediately gravitate towards the left hand corner to look for the menu icon.

However, due to the hamburger icon's increased popularity, it does not necessarily hinder the webpage to include it on the right top corner instead, if this looks better on your webpage. Likewise, it also makes sense to keep the left side of the screen dedicated to the immediate, important information you want the user to see, with the menu as more of an additional feature and therefore positioned in the right hand corner.

Advantages and disadvantages of hamburger menus

Although the hamburger menu icon is well integrated into our everyday browsing, there are lots of strong opinions about it in the design world.

On the one hand, the hamburger menu is an effective way to store a navigation drawer in an uncluttered way, but on the other hand it also requires an extra click from the user, which is considered a fatal wrongdoing to a lot of webpage designers.

Deciding whether the hamburger menu is right for your webpage requires thought and time to weigh up the pros and cons.


Hamburger menus have become a popular design feature in many modern websites and mobile applications. While some critics argue that hamburger menus make navigation less intuitive, there are several advantages to using this design element.

Cleaner and minimalist design

Research shows that customers respond better to a tidy, more minimalist webpage which is not full of overwhelming choices on where to click next. These clean designs prevents an onslaught of information that may turn the user away from your page.

Saves screen space, especially on mobile devices

Rather than having to reserve screen space for a menu, the hamburger menu allows you to fully utilize the screen space you have by keeping the menu hidden in a nice concise spot within the hamburger menu icon. This is particularly effective if you are creating a mobile app, for example, and you want your webpage to also be optimized for these smaller screen sizes, where you have less space to work with initially.

More focused user experience

A hamburger menu also helps to avoid your users having to drill through irrelevant content to get to the content they were looking for. Presenting them with a neat, comprehensive list of links to other relevant areas of your webpage allows them to find what they want quickly and efficiently, helping to prevent them from turning to other websites instead.

Reduces visual clutter and distractions

A major benefit of the hamburger menu is that it allows your webpage to have a neater design, with less clutter on the screen, meaning you are able to direct the user's immediate attention to the core features that you want your user to notice.

Consistent and ubiquitous icon

Users are comfortable with the hamburger menu icon now—switching it up could cause confusion. Sticking to the tried, tested and universally acknowledged hamburger icon prevents any confusion from your webpage users and limits unnecessary clicking.


While hamburger menus have gained popularity as a design element for websites and mobile applications, they are not without their drawbacks.

Hides navigation links, making it harder to find information

Rather than having direct access to other navigational links around the webpage, the hamburger menu conceals this information, requiring effort from the user's side to find it.

Although the 3 lines are now seen as the default sign for menus, having the menu options and navigational links already present on screen allows your user immediate access to the link they want—it's a no-brainer that immediately presenting the information is better than concealing it.

Limits the number of links that can be displayed at once

The list format also condenses the amount of links able to be seen at one time on the page, using the traditional method and dedicating a whole menu section on the screen cuts this time down. A sliding hamburger menu limits this issue but also then resurrects the issue of more clicks and more effort required from the user.

Can require additional clicks to access information

Although the button still provides easy access to the other navigational links, the hamburger menu requires an additional click from the user, not ideal in keeping users engaged. If users cannot see navigation links they are less likely to interact with them.

How does a hamburger menu compare to traditional navigational buttons?

So, which style is right for you? Well, it depends on the goal of your page and the target audience.

Although the hamburger menu is an unpopular choice amongst designers, with many of them unhappy with the thought of an extra click, it can be a really handy tool if you are focused on mobile users or you are building an app.

Opposingly, the traditional menu may be better suited to a desktop version of your webpage, allowing you to effectively share links around your page without requiring any user effort.

Navigation ease

The more traditional menus are definitely the easier navigation option for users. Although the hamburger menu has become a ubiquitous icon over the years, there is no simpler format for your users than simply providing them with their options—no clicking needed. This way they can view a wide variety of categories without any effort needed from them, a great way to advertise other parts of your website and entice your users in.

User experience

Traditional menus are a great way to pique the users interest in other areas of your site that they did not necessarily arrive at the website for. It can also help them to easily locate what they came to the website to find, making them more likely to revisit the website as a reliable page. However, the hamburger menu does not necessarily hinder this. With such a wide prominence in mobile apps, these burger icons have become synonymous with the idea of menus and many users easily make this link in their head.


Those with mobile apps in mind may be leaning more towards the hamburger menu style with its concise, screen-space preserving benefits. Of course, the traditional menu styles can still be used, but this would severely limit the amount of space you have for your contents.

How to choose the right menu style for your business

While the hamburger menu may be best for your webpage, it does not universally work for every webpage, with designers opting to stick to more traditional navigation options instead. Perhaps the dropdown menu triumphs overall with its pros and cons. Either way, the end goal is to have some kind of navigational element that will increase the UX.

Consult our other Mailchimp articles for more advice on best and basic website navigation practices, as well as help on other services you may need advice on, including email, social media and e-commerce. You can even find tutorials on editing your webpage as well as useful tips and tricks on the complete process of building a website.

Mailchimp is an all-in-one marketing platform and a one-stop shop for everything you need to take control of your marketing efforts, reach new audiences and expand your brand.

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