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Posted on November 3, 2010 by hillel on Design, User Experience

Hover R.I.P. (~1991-2010)

Was it the first tooltip (or screentip as Microsoft called it) that showed up when you hovered over toolbars in Word for Win95? Was it in 1991 with System 7 Baloon Help? Was it before those? In a game maybe? I don’t really know, and please comment if you do so I can update the date. But regardless of when the technique of revealing new UI when the mouse pointer was hovering over a particular region, today I am declaring that technique officially dead.

When we first started designing software for touch UI devices (namely iOS devices) I often forgot not to rely on hover as a technique for revealing more UI. Over time I remembered to make sure not to use hover in the designs for iOS. But still relied on it in web designs. But over the last two days I’ve been designing a web app. And I know it’s going to be used on touch devices, so what’s the point of relying on hover. I’m no longer using hover (other than for possible minor reinforcement of what’s clickable) in any apps we create.

And honestly, it’s a shame. I loved hover. It was an awesome relief valve. A great way to get shit off of the screen that didn’t need to be there until that one particular moment. Or maybe, I just used it as a crutch to remove stuff but not really remove it cause I didn’t have the courage to just say no.

Should there be some attempt at a replacement on touch devices? Some proximity thing? I doubt it. Sounds clunky.

Either way, hover is now dead. I’m laying a bouquet of virtual flowers by its tombstone.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Reply


    November 3, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    It’s not dead because of iOS. It’s dead because of mouse-less interfaces, of which iOS is just one example. The fact that hovers are dying is also a reason to celebrate for the accessibility community as they are not at all accessible.

    So byebye hover, you won’t be missed.

  • Reply


    November 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Nah. It’ll be back soon. Once front facing cameras are in every device with a screen and they’re shipping sans IR filter we can do cheap (cost + CPU cycle) retina/ gaze tracking.

  • Reply


    November 9, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    ‘Tap and hold’ worked pretty well for contextual menus on Pocket PC. And didn’t the Tablet PC UI have something similar? Even the iPhone has this, though it’s less discoverable because there’s no feedback and it’s not implemented everywhere.

    We tend to use hover for progressive disclosure, so no harm done if the user misses out on that info. A tap will reveal just as much and then some!

  • Reply


    November 15, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I wrote tooltip support in Access 2.0, in 1993 (shipping in 94), and we definitely called them tooltips, screentips must have come later. At the time, we were implementing it to become more like Word and Excel, but I’m pretty sure they came from somewhere else first… possibly either an Adobe product, Wordperfect, or Lotus? It can’t have been much earlier than 91 though.

  • Reply

    John Liu

    March 5, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Tooltip/hover is really just one step from accessibility features (screen readers).

    So my thoughts are that support for screen readers has to return at some point right? Then you can render that information as a hover again. And it doesn’t need to appear where the mouse is, like in a desktop OS.

    In games, mouse over hover information can render elsewhere (top right corner of the screen) and they work just as well.

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