A tool-tip is a small pop-up window that labels the unlabeled control being pointed to, such as toolbar controls without caption or command buttons. Tool-tips may as well provide more descriptive text including formatting and icons. Tips are a form of progressive disclosure, eliminating the need always to have descriptive text on the screen. Especially novice users are reluctant to click things if they are unsure what they do, so hovering feels more "safe". 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.
Is this the right control
- Use tips to label unlabeled controls and to provide additional information.
- Don’t use tips for warnings.
- Keep tips brief, typically five words or less for tool-tips; whenever appropriate, provide keyboard short-cuts and default values.
- If the control is disabled, add a short explanation about the reason to the tip. If a control already has a tooltip when it’s enabled, write the reason in brackets behind the usual tooltip when it’s disabled. For instance: 'Go to the next unread message' in case of enabled controls and 'Go to the next unread message (No unread messages left)' when disabled.
- Consider to add small info buttons for use tips with a touch screen.
- Format tool-tips to make their content easier to read and scan by grouping and aligning the content. The information should be:
- concise: large, unformatted blocks of text are difficult to read and overwhelming
- helpful: it shouldn't be obvious or just repeat what is already on the screen
- 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 formattings
- if tips describe comprehensive functions,
- when content is lengthy and formatting improves readability
- for tips that are implemented primarily for joy of use.