Most homes have gables. When a roof is applied to a simple rectangular building, two sides will be gables and two sides will fall from the roof ridge to the approximate ceiling height of the finished structure. Where the roof comes down to the ceiling height of the finished structure, you will have a horizontal fascia (this is where gutters mount to collect runoff from the roof). With a hipped roof, the gables are absent such that on all sides of the building there will be a fascia board at the ceiling height of the finished building. Hipped roofs offer a more rounded finished shape since there are no gables to rise to the ridge boards.
Hipped roofs are more difficult to construct on-site, and often they are hand-built versus the premanufactured trusses of standard gable roofs. This makes them more expensive, and generally they take a more experienced carpenter (or team) to build, and usually, experience costs more. With stick-built roofs, there is an advantage in framing the roof in that the builder can easily modify the hand-built ridge boards and rafters to allow for maximum head room and interior space under the roof. It is often common to see dormer windows cut into hip roofs to provide light and egress for interior rooms. Hip roofs are frequently combined with gables. Generally, the gable, in this design style, is used to accent or expand a single feature so that the interior space will double in volume or the exterior will make a strong visual statement. It is common to see a gable at a front entrance point to add volume to the interior foyer (greeting space for guests) and to clearly mark where the front entrance of the house is (on the exterior) for visitors.
Hipped roofs have the advantage of being excellent in environments subject to high winds. They are good where tornadoes and hurricanes are yearly threats--so much so, that insurance carriers in Florida offer better insurance deals to homeowners whose homes have properly built hipped roofs.
Hipped roofs typically have a central ridge board, called a king, that aligns with the largest section of building mass (this will be a rectangular or square shape). Secondary protrusions or wings on the building design create secondary ridge lines, each with their own hip. Buildings with both hips and gables often base the angle of the hip to visually complement the roof pitch of the gable. It looks awkward to see a steeply pitched gable on a shallowly pitched hip roof.
Visually, a hip roof can appear quite heavy, or it can look like the roof is pressing down on the building underneath it. This is because there is more roof to see. For this reason architects are careful to visually weight the building to push the appearance of the roof upward. They are also careful to reduce the pitch on some roofs so that the visual mass of the hipped roof is lowered.
Designing a hipped roof for a home or building with many exterior corners is often a challenging process since all of the additional building "boxes" have to marry into the main roof in an appealing way. Having a roof that doesn't work on the ground is an expensive mistake that can set back the completion time on construction by stopping work until the roof configuration is solved.