Tooltip

Purpose

A tooltip is a small pop-up window that provides more information on an element under the mouse cursor, such as toolbar controls without caption or command buttons. Tooltips provide additional descriptive text including formatting and icons. Tips eliminate the need to always have descriptive text on the screen. Novice users will use hovering to show tooltips to become familiar with the interface. This time-delay mechanism makes tips very convenient, but it also reduces their discoverability. When tips are used consistently they support user’s expectation and foster predictability.

Guidelines

Is this the right control

  • Use tips to label unlabeled controls and to provide additional information.
  • Don’t use tips for warnings.

Behavior

  • Keep tips brief, typically five words or less for tool-tips. Whenever appropriate, provide keyboard short-cuts and default values.
  • Tooltips for a disabled control should include information regarding the disabled state of the control. Include this information even if the control is enabled. For instance: ‘Go to the next unread message’ in the case of enabled controls and ‘Go to the next unread message (No unread messages left)’ when disabled.
  • Consider adding small informational buttons for touch screen use.

Appearance

  • Format and organize content in tooltips to make it easier to read and scan. The information should be:
    • concise: large, unformatted blocks of text are difficult to read and overwhelming
    • helpful: it should add information, not repeat information
    • supplemental: important information should be communicated using self-explanatory control labels or in-place supplemental text
    • static: tips should not change from one instance to the next
  • Do not use icons and formattings for tips of unlabeled controls.
  • Use tool-tips with icons and formatting
    • if tips describe comprehensive functions,
    • when content is lengthy and formatting improves readability
    • for tips that are implemented primarily for joy of use.