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How does hidden navigation impact user experience?

Sheza Naveed

What is hidden navigation?

Hidden navigation refers to types of menus or navigators that do not display all options, unlike a visible menu.

Hamburger menus are an example of hidden navigation.

Hamburger menu
  • Hidden navigation is less discoverable as compared to visible navigation.

    This leads to:

    • people avoiding to use the navigation or not using it at all.

    • people using this navigation later in the task as compared to visible navigation.

Why is hidden navigation less effective?

Hidden navigation is less effective due to the following reasons:

  1. The information scent is low, and people are not aware of what exactly will be in the hidden menu.

  2. The interaction cost increases as users have to do more work opening the menu and then discovering what is inside.

  3. There is low salience as a small icon is harder to notice both on large desktop and small mobile screens.

  4. There are no fixed standards regarding the implementation of hidden navigation as some implement it in the form of hamburger icons while other sites adopt other ways.


We can adopt the following measures to improve user experience (UX).

  1. Avoid hidden navigation on desktop interfaces as there is plenty of space to display navigation options.

  2. On mobile phone interfaces, if there are four or fewer options in navigation, show them as visible links. Otherwise, only hide the options partially.


Although users have become more familiar with hidden navigation on mobile phone interfaces, it is better to reduce the interaction cost, thus providing a better user experience.


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