In the Gmail interface they are not consistent in which cursor they use on button/link hover.

They use the "hand" pointer for:

  • Links in the sidebar(mail, contacts, inbox, starred etc..)
  • The mails
  • The consistent Google toolbar(top)
  • Settings
  • Chat expand and dropdown "more" buttons

They use the regular cursor for:

  • The mailtoolbar(Archive, spam, delete, +/- importance etc..)
  • The search button
  • The compose mail and new contact button
  • The send invite button

What are the reasons behind these choices and inconsistency (most specifically the send invite button) in some cases?

I have not collected data on these inconsistencies across other google products.

Info: I am using the preview theme, but it seems to be the same across all themes

  • In addition - when you hover over a mail for 2 seconds you get a popup with buttons identical in style to the mail toolbar but for which the cursor is the hand, not the pointer! Jul 14, 2011 at 19:17

3 Answers 3


The hand cursor icon is used for controls that provide navigation-like interaction. The regular cursor icon is retained when the interactive items are not for navigation, e.g. command/action buttons.

The distinction between navigation and navigation/action can sometimes be subtle in apps like Gmail, but it is an important one and can drive user expectations and behaviour. I suspect divergence from this design style within Gmail is a mistake rather than a systematic choice.


Just walked round my Gmail and pretty well every link has a hand cursor including the mail toolbar. The exception is the Send Invite button. I suspect that there are either weirdnesses going on either with the browser (as I write I'm using IE8 with XP) or cacheing.

Of course it wouldn't be unheard of that the Gmail developers are doing some kind of A/B testing to see if anyone notices.


Dog barks when you bother it, cat miows then you bother it, and almost all animals produce sound on being bothered.

What's the point? I tell you. Hovering effect is in use just as an indicator, or a kind of visual feedback. So, up to here, consistency doesn't matter.

However, I think we should first define consistency. I think we can divide it into two major categories. Graphical Consistency, and ** Perceived Consistency**. What you're talking about is graphical consistency. But in real world, what matters is that you should be able to get feedback and react. That's the point. Now, if you can get that in one application with 10 different hovering effects (an inconsistency in graphical design), you still feel consistency in your mind.

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