Is it a good idea to use hoverIntent (which introduces a slight movement-predicted delay to prevent accidental hover-offs) for user-friendlier dropdowns?


I know a lot of CSS developers shun it because it's JS, but what do you designers / usability folks think about using hoverIntent?

  • There have been several questions in recent months about use of hover in menus. Is your question specifically about JQuery hoverIntent, or hovering in general?
    – JonW
    Commented Nov 25, 2012 at 16:02

4 Answers 4


I would say this is a perfectly reasonable action in terms of UX - Provided you make it clear to the user that a drop-down is available, of course.

If you fail to make it obvious then a quick hover with the mouse will provide the user with no visual feedback due to the delay, and as such the user will miss the drop-down entirely.

Whilst instant drop-downs can, understandably, be be rather annoying (i.e a large number of menu items have drop-down menu's close to each other) it does provide that instant feedback to the user.

I'm not against the idea of hoverIntent, I actually see it improving UX where used appropriately, but you'll need to ensure the user is aware that further options are available to them.


As all other features, it's a good thing when applied judiciously.
It is being used for the tooltips of all applications, so widely that it has become a known UI idiom. For web applications, the browsers wait until you park the mouse pointer for a short while before tooltipping you. Desktop applications also do so.

The jQuery hoverIntent plugin mimics that behavior for all other hovering effects in web UIs.

It solves a nasty issue with menus. See this example: imagine you want to print this newspaper page. Your mouse pointer is at the center of the top-most menu bar, over Susana. You move it straight downwards aiming at the printer icon and click: you end up looking at the obituaries page ("Fúnebres") because you briefly hovered over "EDICIÓN IMPRESA" in the light blue menu bar and opened a choices list that covered your target.

Should the blue menu bar had hoverintent implemented, this wouldn't have happened.
Notice that this is especially annoying for the more expert users, who would be mousing swiftly.

The plugin has a parameter, a milliseconds timeout, the time the user has to hover the target in order for the corresponding action to be fired.
If you choose a low delay the UI behaves more like normal, the delay isn't noticeable but the user would be reaping the plugin benefits without noticing it, which is BTW how good usability has to be.


An alternative to using hoverIntent is this method which is used by Amazon:


It uses an algorithm to determine the trajectory of the mouse pointer meaning dropdowns can change without a delay but you can still get to the sub-menu option you're after.


I am mostly convinced hovers should die. There are some uses like quick menu access such as google plus, but anything that small movements can make you hover off are just bad. I'd rather click and have the drop down show up.

You will also just have to make a different design pattern for touch devices.

  • 3
    This is just your opinion on hover itself as a concept; it doesn't answer the question about whether hoverintent provides a better user experience for hover menus over standard hover implementations.
    – JonW
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 14:19
  • you are right. I feel the idea of hover-off delay is great unless you need to facilitate quick hover events between navigation items, possibly impeding the user. the best is to do it and see how it feels.
    – ryan
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 15:33

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