Hover Effects in Web Design: Best Practices and Examples

by Matt on April 15, 2009 · 60 comments

in How-To,Web Design Tips

Design is in the details. No matter what field of design you work with, you will always hear that, because it is very true. The slightest details have a direct effect on the design as a whole. This is true in web design, too. Everything from the amount of white space between two interface elements to the size of a header will impact a website. Another one of those details is hover effects.

In navigation, usability is essential; hover effects not only help styling but they also help usability. Why is that? A good hover effect will tell a user when they have a link under focus, and which link they have under focus.

In the following article, I will go over the best practices and techniques for hover effects. I will be using over 30 examples to show good use of hover effects.

Gradient Hovers

The more common type of hover effect is the gradient. There are many uses of this, here are a few.

Gradient vs. Gradient

Take a look at the navigation shown below to understand what this means. The normal button, not under focused and not selected has a gradient fill that goes from darker at the bottom to lighter at the top. When under focus, the gradient flips from dark at the top and light at the bottom. This is an especially good hover effect because the hover button is very different from the normal, and adds depth to the design. Look at the two buttons side by side. You can very easily determine the difference between the two. This is essential what you should aim for: hover effects that are easily recognizable and distinguishable.

Gradient Button, Solid Color on Focus

Another common navigation in regards to gradients is the use of a gradient button, and a solid color when under focus. The website below, Miro, uses a gradient fill on each button. When hovering over a button, the fill switches to a solid white.

Two Different Gradients, One Sharper than the Other

Another effect that I will discuss briefly is the technique of using to different gradients going in the same direction. The standard gradient is light, while the hover gradient is darker. This can be seen especially in Apple.com.

Blur Effect

When working with larger interface elements or image links, a blur when hovered over is the way to go. This looks really awesome, and is one of those details that can really help to make the design more usable. Take a look at these websites and how they use blur effects to show focus of images. Notice that in each, the blur is slight so the image is still visible.

In this design, a hover effect is used on each of the portfolio thumbnails. Also notice the labels on each thumbnail. The blur helps to bring the focus off of the image and up to the white text. This is a very usable feature, and it looks very great in terms of styling.

In this site, Best Web Gallery, a blur is used to bring the user’s focus up to the large tooltip preview element.

Contrast is Key

One of the most important aspects of a good hover effect is the coloring, specifically the contrast. The color of text when hovered should be a large contrast from the normal color of the text. Why? Well, a strong contrast improves usability of links and is more convenient to users.

Here is one example of a good text contrast. The orange is a far stretch from white colorwise, so the hover works nicely. Furthermore, the orange actually matches that of the other colors in the site. Staying within the color palette of the entire design is something to keep in mind.

So far I’ve discussed the importance of contrasts of text, but what about button backgrounds? The website below, Bartelme Design, does a good job of contrasting the background color of buttons. The normal button uses a light blue background. When hovered, a dark blue is used. They are both blues that work nicely, but they are far enough from each other that the hover works nicely.

Color Off, Color On

Yet another excellent technique is having an element with no color normally, then show the color upon the hover. Another form of this is navigations’ showing a radial gradient as a lighting effect on the hover. The best example of this is the Pixelmator website, shown below. In a button set in the siderbar, icons are used to support the buttons. When the buttons are not under focus, they are colorless. However, when you hover over the button the color of the icon is shown.

Another technique that goes along with this is that of taking a normal button with a solid color fill and showing a gradient or some sort of highlight on the hover. What does this mean? Well, take a look at the examples below that use this technique.

First, we will take a look at Best Web Gallery once again. In this design, the buttons take on the fill of the header. When hovered, the fill changes to a brightly colored gradient with strong highlights. Also, this is an example of the icon without color showing color on the hover. The RSS icon is normally a dark color, but shows as orange when the button is focused.

Label Hover Effects

Hover effects can be used for more than just styling and usability. A hover effect can provide more information, similar to a tooltip. You have already seen one example of this, in Best Web Gallery. The screenshot is a hover effect that gives users a preview of the gallery item.

Also, by the creator of Best Web Gallery, Web Designer Wall uses a hover effect with a label. The hover provides more information that otherwise would not fit int the button.

Another well-known hover is the Javascript-based hover element on the Coda website. This one is a label as well as a menu. Hover menus could also be considered a hover effect, but that is a whole different subject.

Also, a hover label is used on Webdesigner Depot. When the user hovers over the title in the header, a label is shown.

Good Main Navigation Hover Effects


This site uses a great graphical hover based navigation. When focused, the background is expanded as a dimensional element.


A great lighting hover effect.

Bohemian Coding

A nice gradient hover. When the user hovers, a darker gradient is shown.

Cultured Code

A nice light hover effect.

Dragon Interactive

A beautiful and vibrant Java-based hover, with a strong gradient to add dimension.

South Creative

A nice lighting hover with nice colors.

RealMac Software

A good example of a strong gradient.

Alexandru Cohaniuc

A nicely colored gradient with a good green shade.

Good UI Element Hover Effects


This is a very subtle effect, but you will see that when you hover over one of the two grey interface elements, it darkens.

Tim Van Damme

Another good example of gradient based hover and coloring effects.


When you hover the interface elements on the right side, they show color.


Notice the bright blue hover color on the buttons.

Expression Engine

Another perfect example of up and down gradients in structured navigation.

Alex Buga

A nice hover effect with a lined pattern.

Paramore Redd

A nice hover effect that’s awesome yet a bit difficult to really see in a screenshot, show check out the site to look at.

Media Temple

There are numerous hover effects on this page alone, but focus on the light blue hover fill in the product selection element.

Some Not So Good Examples

I don’t like to saw “bad” examples because all of these designs have good features, but I would just like to point out a few places where hover effects should have been used.


Yahoo! should certainly have but a few light hover effects on these tabs and similar UI elements.


Google is meant to be simple, but it’s almost too simple. These are links instead of buttons, so they don’t need too much in terms of hover effects. However, it would be nice to see at least an underline or color hover.

Komodo Media

This is an excellent site, but some hover effects such as a color change would help a bit. A light gradient hover could also work.


With tabs, a hover effect should always be used. A gradient color change would work perfectly in this tab set.

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

osCommerce Templates April 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm

I am not an expert in web designing. In fact I am a frustrated web designer.

I have always like website with a pastel color combination. I like websites that carry light color combination. For me, a good website should have a hover effect changed once the user have clicked the link already to give them an idea that they already clicked the link.

Matt April 15, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Yes, that’s true, it’s even better practice to have a selected effect. However, I just wanted to focus on hover effects in this one.

serj April 16, 2009 at 12:44 am

nice article, good examples. we can see here to whom is the sites are addressed and more important how is that achieved.

ps: don;t be a cheeps cake, more written info , grrrrr!

Mepho April 16, 2009 at 12:52 am

Great Post. Hover effects are small things we miss out in web design from mock ups that don’t describe mouse overs all the time.

As soon as you hover over something you should know its clickable or know that nothing will happen if you click it. Don’t make the user think.

MorayWeb April 16, 2009 at 5:50 am

Some really good examples and some great inspiration, thanks.

Fitz April 16, 2009 at 11:32 am

Nice Post.

One comment about this site, I think the RSS and Twitter buttons would be nice with a rollover :)

Fitz April 16, 2009 at 11:33 am

Nice post.

One comment about this site, I think the RSS and Twitter buttons would be nice with a rollover :)

Fitz April 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

Sorry about the double post, I got an error the first time “Error establishing connection to database”

Liam April 16, 2009 at 11:49 am

“Another well-known hover is the Java-based hover element on the Coda website. This one is a label as well as a menu. Hover menus could also be considered a hover effect, but that is a whole different subject.”

It’s 2009, can we please as a community recognise Java != Javascript

Justin April 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Ha – I was going to say the same thing. There is a HUGE difference between JAVA and Javascript.

Web Design April 17, 2009 at 3:18 am

Thanks for sharing. This is a great collection of hover effects and there’s a lot of great inspiration here.

Web Design April 20, 2009 at 5:59 pm

As Mepho pointed out, people have to know something is clickable, use the pointer cursor, instant giveaway that something is clickable and doesn’t make the user think. Sounds like it should be there already but you would be surprised at how many designers miss out this minor but important aspect.

francisa April 22, 2009 at 4:11 am

nice article

Dave j April 27, 2009 at 4:03 am

I’m a self taught web designer and I like tips like these. I’m definately going to use this as a reference. Good job and many thanks

Jignesh Mistry April 30, 2009 at 6:30 am

Good Collection thanks a lots :)

Some of them hover do not work with **** IE6.

Amrutha June 29, 2009 at 4:40 am

Hey nice post! I think hover effect is something that many websites don’t have. In fact its been seen that 84% of the websites don’t have any hover, active or focus-effects for sign-up forms. This is quite strange cause by giving an on hover it tells the to the user about the link…or the fact that it is click able.
Check out these sites
1) Designsensory – http://designsensory.com/ (interesting on hover effect, very
simple and neat.)
2) Uhuroo – http://tr.im/uhuroo1066 (simple and clean in terms on navigation)

Joe Ward July 2, 2009 at 11:45 am

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h1brd August 9, 2009 at 9:35 am

Really awesome examples here, thanks for the great teaching post :)

bike locks September 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm

The turbomilk example is great, altogether another great resource for beginners.

Diesel Engine November 6, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Any effect that makes the website looks good it is good. Don’t over use effects , use an universal effect on all website or 1-2 effects.

raf January 17, 2011 at 6:45 am


They’re nice. Thanks a lot.

motorlu panjur May 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

With tabs, a hover effect should always be used. A gradient color change would work perfectly in this tab set.

raf May 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm

With tabs, a hover effect should always be used. A gradient color change would work perfectly in this tab set.

raf May 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Look forward to reading more from you in the future. check out my site and let me know what you think, its got other freebies as well as phone tricks, hope you like :)

Francisco June 28, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Really nice comparison. Hover design is very useful

Natalie Dalton November 3, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Thanks for compiling such great examples! I am fascinated by different elements of web and graphic design and loved the visual representation. Keep up the great work!

nasir November 30, 2011 at 4:12 am

hello my name is nasir and im new developer and designer for webs …. but i love creative things like these above css styles r so beautiful and amusing … and i will give them a try …. but the best according to me “using the ipad as a creative tool” i have problem with opacity attribute also …… if anyone interested in teaching mediocre developer like me most welcome lol :P

Sam April 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Very nice post.. Some hover effects are very very good.

Belly dance November 28, 2012 at 9:19 am

The samples are really good.So can i ask some one to do me a favor ,i am making this website (www.jamiladance.eu),but need suitable hover menu and sub menu. Please please suggest me something.

waiting for help

lucky January 4, 2013 at 2:34 am

very good examples in your web site .
my all solution soulved in there.

Jason January 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

Nice tips to show how a hover effect must be. Every body can write a code for the hover effect, but it is necessary that it must be user friendly.

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Hey, I tried this as opposed to using two separate images, but for some reason, both versions (on and off) show when I load my page. Any idea what I am doing wrong?

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