You know those responsively designed sites where — on small screens like smartphones — navigation is either hidden or set at the bottom of a layout, then revealed when you click a button? Well, I think we need a standard ‘show navigation’ icon for that button in responsive web design.
I flicked through responsively designed sites featured on Media Queries and found several different icons in use.
Macdonald Hotels have chosen a plus symbol accompanied by the word “show” (show what?) for their collapsed navigation. Unsurprisingly, when the navigation’s visible the icon and text change to a minus symbol and “hide.” Sony use the same plus and minus symbols but their button reads “menu.”
Using a plus symbol to reveal navigation could be confusing, as it usually indicates that you can can add something. In iOS:
- An event in Calendar
- A contact in Contacts
- A friend in Find My Friends
- A note in Notes
- A URL in Readability
- A reminder in, err, Reminders
You get the idea.
YouTube’s mobile site uses a 3x3 grid icon to indicate navigation. The same icon makes sense for the Start Page button in Opera Mini too. It makes sense because a grid is exactly what you see when you tap the button.
The use of a grid icon makes no sense however on the Happy Cog’s Cognition blog, because when its navigation’s revealed it’s anything but a grid.
Unordered list icon
Designers Bearded and Belgian job site Jobat both chose an an unordered list icon (although their accompanying text is different). I can see why they chose it. Navigation’s often a list of links, usually unordered in HTML.
Designers understand this but do normal people? When they see that icon in Foursquare or Tweetbot they know it means a ‘list.’ So why do we expect them to know it means ‘navigation’ when they see it on a website in Safari?
That leaves us with three lines that represent a variety of things across a variety of apps:
- Friend request list in Game Center
- Recordings list in Voice Recorder
- Subscription list in Reeder
And show navigation in Path.
What icon should become a standard?
Unless our navigation’s arranged in a grid (and so we should use a grid icon), I’m putting my weight behind three lines because I think it’s most recognisable as navigation to the average person.
Postscript: To slide his content to the right and reveal his navigation, Barack Obama’s site uses the President’s own, unique icon.
But hey. He’s the President.