We get many clients or prospective clients asking us for hover features on their website. Often this is for their menu – it looks a bit flashy, many people seem to think it is great, but…. we don’t. Here are 11 reasons why. Most of these points apply to hover anywhere on a website, not just a menu.
1. Mouse-hover isn’t possible for people using tablets and larger smartphones
It’s important to ensure continuity and consistent experiences across devices. Touchscreens are not just limited to phones and tablets, e.g. there’s also touchscreen laptops too!
2. Hover does not imply intent
It can be frustrating if hover menus are triggered by accident. Just because a user is moving their cursor, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are intending to interact with the navigation.
3. Some users may not be able to physically use hover
A person with mobility problems who might have issues with tremors or someone using screen-reading technology will find hover menus incredibly hard to use.
4. Due to ‘hover tunnels’, hover menus do not allow much room for error
If your cursor moves away from a hover submenu, you have ‘reset’ and initiate the process again in order to re-open the submenu. Click menus allow people to take their time to process information and allow greater flexibility in mouse movements. This leads us on to…
5. It may not necessarily be quicker to have a hover menu
People may ‘miss’ the item at the bottom of a submenu. Therefore, someone would have to reopen it and/or slow their mouse movement to avoid accidentally closing the menu.
6. Clicking is a more innate and natural web behaviour
For example, you click on links to go to a new page, click buttons to submit forms or click to change tabs in your browser. More impatient users may click before the hover state has had a chance to load.
7. Research has shown a majority of people prefer mouse-clicks
Clicks are preferred by 67% of people compared to just a third of people (33%) who say hover is their preference.
8. There are possible incompatibilities with IE and Microsoft Edge
These browsers regularly have problems displaying hover states.
9. There are possible double-tap issues on portable devices
Taps should not be considered universal substitutes for clicks on touchscreen devices. An initial tap can be treated as a cue by some devices to activate the hover state rather than initiate the click action. Therefore, an additional tap may be required to actually open the link. A click-based menu removes this risk.
10. Making changes
We may later want to add a menu item that doesn’t have a submenu. Visitors may expect a submenu to appear when they hover on the label – worsening user experience.
11. Understanding user behaviour
If you are interested in analysing user behaviour, such as through the use of heatmaps, it would likely be much easier to track and monitor clicks than ‘hover intent. UX is crucial to the success of a website so you need to consider how you will be able to assess what people do, what works and what doesn’t.
Hopefully, that helps to explain why hover might look good, but it can cause issues for your website. You should always consider what is easiest for users and don’t give them a reason to leave your website. Many users will view more than one website at a time. If you make the browsing experience hard for them, you may lose them.