Convenience vs. Usabilty
I was reading this article on mega drop down menus and I came across the following two paragraphs that discuss a menu that opens on hover versus one that opens on click.
Option 1: Hover Menu
Basically, there are two ways to approach the drop-down menu: with either a hover or a click to activate the menu. From a design and convenience standpoint, a hover menu is better.
Option 2: Clickable Menu
On the other hand, many will argue that a clickable menu is better because it is much more usable. Reason? Because of the way a hover menu is constructed, the user has to have the pointer over the menu at all times. If the user loses focus of the hover menu, it closes. Therefore, it is better to go with a drop-down menu that is activated by clicking a button, then deactivated by clicking the button once more
Based on the above, we can either have convenient or usable. Well, if I have to choose one, I’d obviously go with usable. However, aren’t convenience and usable the same thing? I mean, logically if something is convenient then it’s usable too, right?
Personally, I find drop-down menus that activate on hover annoying. I tend to “read” with my mouse and if I happen to roll over something and a menu appears it might interrupt my flow. I like to be in control when I’m browsing. If I want to expand a menu, I’ll choose how and when. That being said, hover-activated drop-down menus are not convenient to me.
So that would make both of these options personal preference for the user. Some people might prefer hover-activated drop-downs, others might prefer to click them open. Since there are no real standards on this scenario, what’s the best solution? I think I may know.
To account for users like myself who don’t like the spastic opening of drop-downs on over (usually on accident, but still) developers should implement the jQuery hoverIntent, which does a pretty good job of guessing if the hover was intentional or not. If the user hovers over the navigation item for a given number of milliseconds, the menu will expand, otherwise the mouse hover will be ignored.
Additionally, by adding the option to click open the menu would make for the perfect compromise to the the hover versus click drop-down problem.