"The Future of Hover States?"

Today we consider what the future holds for the stalwart hover state; what is encroaching its effectiveness; to what degree is this encroachment affecting its effectiveness and what trends you ought to consider when embarking on your new website design.

User experience dictates, to a large degree, the ultimate design of a website. One of the cornerstones of user experience are Hover States.

For the avoidance of doubt- let’s quickly identify what a hover state is: A hover state is often referred to as a roll-over state, and represents the graphics that appear to change or the way in which a link is made visible to a website visitor when hovered over with their cursor.

Simple hover states such as colour switch, fade in/out, some form of subtle animation or the automatic transition of a text link to an image representing that link to another webpage or area of that same webpage are all examples of what hover states entail.

In a nutshell, they aid the visitor to navigate around your website in an easier fashion by signalling links to other content thereby enhancing a user’s experience.

Technology shaping hover states and therefore user experience:

The devices we most commonly use to access websites are largely reshaping the considerations behind user experience. Due to the absence of cursors for smaller electronic devices, hover states may only appear once clicked, thereby not necessarily hover states any longer. We can only realistically classify these as click states.

With the continued proliferation of mobile devices from Tablets to Smartphones, and with Mobile traffic to websites envisaged to overtake Desktop website visits by March 2017 (see recent study published by 10ZiG Technology), perhaps we will see the gradual decline of the hover state’s importance and thus its remaining as one of the fundamental cornerstones of user experience.

It must not be forgotten that there will always be a place for Desktop computers, particularly for business and office use, and therefore hover states will still remain important from a user experience perspective when considering your new website design, at least for the time being for desktop users.

However, aside from mobile devices, desktops are also evolving, albeit at a far slower pace to the former. HP for example are soon to launch their new desktop called HP Sprout that replaces the traditional keyboard and mouse with a Smart Mat. This alone represents a stark reminder that the traditional mouse, utilising a navigable cursor, is fast losing traction as a means of navigation for desktop computers. HP’s Senior Vice-President of Personal Devices, Ron Codling, indicated that the new technology used within HP Sprout will be rolled out into future desktop models.

With HP as the second largest desktop manufacturer, only marginally short of Lenovo (18.8% v 19.4% respectively), we all ought to consider the huge impact this new means of navigation will have on user experience if rolled out into all new PC models (where the navigation is akin to Mobile devices), and more specifically, whether hover states will have as much importance into the future.

If they no longer are able to serve their intended purpose due to the absence of a cursor on the screen, what other practices can be applied to ensure the user experience remains successful and our websites are easy to navigate and visitor friendly.

Perhaps it is just a matter of time before the traditional cursor we have become accustomed to for desktops is left behind for something more intuitive and we will have to rethink how we can achieve an equally effective signpost akin to a hover state that can direct and highlight links to other content upon our websites.

While it is true, hover states have lost some of their eminent status when it comes to user experience considerations, they must still remain as one of the prime considerations when designing your new website as a means of guiding website navigation and ultimately enhancing user experience.

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