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Why You Should Stop Hiding Your Site's Navigation

trendy is not always right
down with the hamburger
Advice From Titans

Over the past couple of years, it has become trendy for designers to hide websites’ navigation behind the three line ‘hamburger’ icon. Hiding navigation on a site when it’s being viewed on a mobile device is often a necessary evil, due to the lack of real estate on mobile screens. But there’s no good reason to hide navigation on a site when it’s being accessed by a larger device – it’s either an aesthetic preference, or a product of laziness. And although it may look pretty (or save design time), it’s not a good idea.

 

Don’t make your users dig for what they want

 

Users come to your site for a reason: to find something or to do something. Hiding your site’s navigation puts one more barrier in the way of finding or doing that something quickly and efficiently. A recent study from the Nielson Norman Group (NNG) found that users are less likely to use a site’s navigation when it is hidden, sometimes because they don’t even realize it’s there at all. If users do find the navigation, it is later in their visit than if the navigation were visible. Basically, if you hide the navigation on your site, it takes your users longer to do what you want them to do, and sometimes they’re not able to do it at all.

 

Highlight the important items

 

Hiding navigation isn’t quite as problematic on mobile views, likely because users have started to catch onto navigation patterns that have emerged. However, even with the limited space that mobile screens provide, the NNG study shows that displaying a couple of the most important navigation items and hiding the rest in the menu (referred to as “partially visible navigation” in the study) is the best approach to use.

 

 

Stop making your users work harder than they need to!

 

Display your site’s navigation, and if you don’t have the space to show the full navigation, at least show your users the most important options so they can make better, faster decisions. Your users (and your bottom line) will thank you for it.