You may know the menu icon or navicon, sometimes called "bars", on your smart phone or tablet. When you click it or touch it, you get a menu, ta-da, pretty great.
Except lately I've seen some people, including some people I respect, call it the "hamburger" icon. This is pushed further by the media, and in fact it mostly seems to be a media thing since, well you know how reporters often run out of things to talk about…
The BBC carried this article: Hamburger icon: How these three lines mystify most people.
Are people really mystified by a standard icon seen everywhere? Somehow I doubt it.
Here's why it concerns me:
Standards are important in computing, especially when interacting with regular, "non-technical" people. Having a clear and understandable name for things makes sense. People need to connect words to actions, and if someone says "hamburger icon" instead of the more obvious "menu icon" then we've sacrificed logic to be cute.
It's always been a menu icon since it was invented, and in fact originally the cutesy name was "air vent icon," which makes more sense than hamburger, speaking of…
Here's why it makes no damn sense:
It doesn't look like a fucking hamburger! If it were a hamburger, the top and bottom lines would be wider to signify a bun, but they're all equal. It seems like a really big stretch and attempt to try to apply a name to something that does not need another god damn name.
I always thought it looked like a gripper, as one can often see on the bottom of remote controls to make sliding the battery panel off, as well as many other places. This makes sense too with smart devices, because people use their fingers on them.
Other things it looks more like: a deck of cards, a list of items, an air vent, a stack of items… Would you say the StackOverflow icon looks like someone assembling a hamburger?
Plus when I click it, no matter what, I will never get hamburgers.
Here's what we should do instead:
I don't use the term "navicon", because it seems silly to me, but so does "favicon," and that seems like a good name for technical people and development, but not regular people.
Consider the fact that people, after playing with their phones, tablets, or a web site will see it brings up a menu and they will think "oh, it's a menu icon," and it always brings up a menu wherever they see it. I don't think they'll naturally say "oh it's a hamburger, no duh, of course, as it looks nothing like a hamburger! And just like in real life, touching a hamburger brings up a menu!" even if they don't understand what it's supposed to represent, they'll just associate it with menus.
You use a menu to get a hamburger, you don't use a hamburger to get a menu, unless you're yelling at a waiter from Hamburg, Germany.
So when I say menu icon, they'll know what to click.
The best thing to do is to just not repeat this weird ass thing, it's so trivial and unnecessary.
So if it's so trivial why do I care?
Because I don't want to make interacting with users even more complicated by giving illogical, goofy names to them to be cute. We don't need to set precedent with this, otherwise what's next, calling bullets "M&Ms" because they're both round?
Want to make a list, click the M&Ms icon…
See what I mean, what's the difference? Oh yeah, bullets look more like M&Ms than the menu icon looks like a hamburger.