Gmail uses the pointer on mouse over of a button,

Gamil Search Button

while many of other websites uses a hand

enter image description here

So I am wondering which kind of cursor is more friendly to users (on web applications), or it just doesn't matter?

4 Answers 4


Google has added this differing in hovering feedback to make a visual distinction between navigational elements and action elements in the UI. It's really to distinguish the semantics between actions like Compose a new mail and Open email.

So that is basically the strategy behind the behaviour. The reason however, how they feel that this will improve the user experience, I'm not really sure of.

  • Great point! I knew there was going to be some reasoning behind that! Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 10:22
  • @nimrod thanks, I agree with your point also. As far as I'm concerned it's better to be consistent in interactive feedback and use the pointer hovering effect for all interactive elements. I don't really see the benefit behind this strategy to be honest, maybe someone else does? Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 10:30
  • 1
    ask this yourself: will i be able to open (via middle mouse click or via context menu) the button in another window/tab? if yes, it's navigational. otherwise it's an action button
    – user39775
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 15:33

I think the hand on hover is as you pointed out very very common metaphor for actions.

I'd say it's part of a users vocabulary, it's what everybody learns when using the web so it makes sense to use it if you want to optimise for usability.

Like @gotson said, visual feedback would also be appropriate.


I know this is an old question, but thought maybe it could use some input from 2017.

I had this same question, and during my googling, I was surprised to find out buttons were not intended to have a hand (pointer) cursor, and that the hand was meant for links. Lot's of people using this argument.

I personally like when anything clickable has a hand as a visual indicator that it can be clicked. With flat styles and all, it's not always obvious that a button is a button without the handy dandy hand pointer.

I did a quick check of several big time web apps on my bookmarks bar (stackoverflow, amazon, ebay, microsoft one note, Intuit mint, trello, etc) and they ALL used the hand cursor on buttons. It seems the hand for buttons is becoming the standard for web apps.


What's important is for the user to get a feedback that will let him know that what he is pointing at can be clicked. Feedbacks can be various:

  • sound (might not be appropriate for a web site, but could make sense in a game, or even in Flash/Silverlight applications)
  • visual alteration, either of the mouse cursor (as you pointed out), or of the button itself (changing the background color, embossing the button, underline links...)
  • vibration (cannot be applied in this particular context, but still is a valid feedback - would be better used in Console games, using the vibrating gamepad)

If you look closely at the google search button, it will change color when you hover it (even though the change is not that noticeable).

Normal Google search button:

normal Google search button

Hovered Google search button:

Hovered Google search button

  • 1
    vibration and sound? Seriously? I would be pretty annoyed if everytime I hover a button a sound goes off! Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 9:01
  • 3
    Look at the Starcraft 2 launcher by Blizzard, when you hover the 'Play' button it makes a sound and the button changes color. That's something quite normal in games. Vibration is something common in console games, since the gamepad can vibrate. I agree that the correct feedback needs to be chosen depending on the context.
    – gotson
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 9:11
  • Fair point. I think the context is web though. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 9:14
  • Indeed, I pointed this out in the 'vibration' feedback, but the 'sound' feedback could be valid in a Flash application for example, and it would still be considered web. I will edit my post to emphasize on the feedback part.
    – gotson
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 9:17

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