For a PC messenger like application, in the 'Inbox' view, messages are arranged in a list.

I have a mouse hover state and a selected state. the selected state is invoked by clicking once on the item, which does nothing but visually highlight the item, since to open the message you need to double click. So the only use the 'selected state' has is to afford your position in the list if you navigate via the keyboard.

Given this, is it OK to drop the 'on single click --> select item' behavior?

By doing this i'll have to "hijack" the hover state from the mouse to the keyboard in case the user moves to keyboard navigation. Is that acceptable?

  • Being able to click to highlight an item, and for that highlight to persist regardless of where my mouse is pointing, seems like a useful feature. What is the benefit of removing it?
    – Matt Obee
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 8:25

2 Answers 2


I would definitely suggest following the common practice instead of making users learn new patterns. The common way to do it (based on experiences from e.g. MS Outlook or Thunderbird) is like this:

  • on hover - no feedback at all or just hover state
  • on click - selection state
  • on double click - open

The selected state is handy, as it allows the forementioned switching to keyboard navigation, to perform operations on an item without a need to open it, and select multiple elemens and perform these actions in bulk on them.

Switching to keyboard navigation is sometimes handy, especially if you need to go through multiple messages/threads looking for something (if there is a preview pane - I don't know how it is in your situation).

Hijacking the hover state would be very unintuitive and severly affect the keyboard selection mode, as it would not let the user move the cursor if if s/he does not want to mess up the selection. Bad UX, in my eyes.


Dropping single click --> select item pattern will be confusing for users. The usual interaction pattern is action --> feedback. Besides that click is direct user action so there should be clear system feedback.

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