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Marketingspeak is my occasional series on interesting words I encounter in my day job in marketing. I do my best to channel the late great William Saphire, whose ‘On Language’ column brought a smile to my face many a Sunday. – TM

ButIn an occupation chock full of fluff, it was nice to encounter these two hearty web marketing terms. No empty calories here. This combo is a protein-packed marketing value meal.

Butter bars are rectangular notifications that appear at the top of a web browser, typically used to inform the user of an error, ask if a password should be saved, or to highlight a new feature. The name was concocted by web developers who felt that the shape and color of the rounded yellow rectangle resembled a stick of butter.

But the developers were not just being cute. In dev speak, rectangular notifications are also known as message bars or notification bars, or infobars in Chrome. Some felt that these names were too generic, as they were also applied to other types of messages on a web page. The term butter bar was coined to disambiguate these top notifications from other notifications or informational messages appearing in different places on the web page.

Butter Bar
The butter bar

A hamburger, in the online world, is an icon represented by three stacked, parallel lines. Clicking or tapping the hamburger reveals more menu items. Its design is meant to suggest “more here.” The hamburger first appeared on mobile apps, where skinny screens caused a space crunch for top navigation. Now the trend has jumped over to full sites for desktops and laptops, either for convenience in building one responsive design, or perhaps to appear hip.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 8.46.38 AMThe hamburger and its namesake (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Like the butter bar, the hamburger also has more staid names, including ‘side menu’ and ‘navigation drawer,’ and the inscrutable ‘basement.’ Unlike its oleaginous cousin, hamburgers are controversial. Here’s what Josh Constine of TechCrunch had to say. The title of his article, “Kill the Hamburger Button,” tells you on which side of the fast food line he comes down on:

Essentially, what’s out of sight is out of mind. Any navigation options you hide behind the hamburger will be forgotten, or at least used a lot less. It doesn’t help that the button is often placed in the top left corner — the hardest place to reach when using the phone with just your right hand.

IEC 5009 On Off SymbolWhatever your opinion, I think the burger is here to stay. Just like the hamburger’s brother from another mother, the International Electrotechnical Commission’s on/off symbols, sometimes we just need to follow engineering’s lead. I know plenty of people who don’t know why one equals on, and zero equals off, much less that IEC 5009 on/off button (at right) is a blend of the two numerals.

But I digress. Back in the web world, I would like to offer a challenge to web developers. We now have butter bars and hamburgers joining breadcrumbs and cookies. Dairy, meat, and grains – three of the four food groups – are covered. What about fruits and vegetables? Are nomenclature choices a reflection of our eating habits?