Google’s starting to learn about Smartphone User Interface Design

The latest Google Android app to drop the hamburger button is now the Google Play Store. Thank goodness Google is finally learning about better smartphone user interface design. Google Photos removed the design element last year and Google Maps removed it in 2019. The YouTube app removed it as well. Hopefully, the Gmail app, Google Drive app, and Google Calendar apps are next.  If only we could get that awesome experimental Google Chrome user interface back too!

Why is the hamburger button such a bad design?

Oh my! There are so many reasons! Your first clue is in the name. If we have to make up a ridiculous name to describe an interactive element, that means the designer failed miserably in creating a button that clearly communicates its function. Every time you call it a hamburger button, you’re insulting whoever put it there.

We’ve actually talked about this before numerous times, (see: What’s wrong with hamburger buttons?), but we can summarize again.

  1. People don’t know what it does. There’s no indication as to what it’s supposed to be and what it’s supposed to do other than “something”. This is because people don’t understand icons. They do, however, understand words, because we learned about words at an early age and almost all humans have been taught about words for hundreds of years. It’s a really good way to communicate.  See:
  2. It’s often used inconsistently. The hamburger button might be used for one type of thing in one app and another type in another app. There’s no consistency and therefore no way for a user to predict what’s it’s going to do. I’ve seen some apps with multiple hamburger buttons, maybe one at the top and one at the bottom, and they both do completely different things. That’s not user-friendly at all.
  3. Placement at the top is the worst possible location for interactive elements.  Also, see:

Our 2014 & 2015 articles about this were mainly targeted at Microsoft for implementing hamburger buttons in Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10. I believe this poor design decision is part of what contributed to the fall of Windows 10 Mobile as all of the data seems to show that hamburger button-based user interface designs have reduced engagement and reduced usability. See:

Okay, okay… I know what you’re saying, “But Adam, the Pocketnow mobile website has a hamburger menu at the top! Hypocrisy much?”  I know, I know, but my excuse is that I didn’t design this site, and the person who did doesn’t read my articles about user experience design or the advantages thereof. It looks like Google does read them though since they’re definitely moving towards a better user experience design among their apps.

Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!

Leave a Comment