Re: Tooltip Guidelines

Subject: Re: Tooltip Guidelines
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Mon, 26 May 1997 08:48:04 +0800

Danna Cardwell <DLCardwe -at- SOFTART -dot- COM> said:
> We are adding tooltips to our products. We are struggling with
> wording. How much is too much? How exact does the tooltip have to be?

By 'Tooltip', do you mean the little yellow text box that appears when
the pointer is left over a button? If so, I suggest you:

- make them short
- make them simple
- use the same terms as in the rest of interface

The purpose of tooltips (and icons on buttons) is purely mnemonic. It's
not to teach you what the button does, it's to *remind* you.

The menus are the novice's interface. Everything is there, though it may
take a little time to find it. Buttons are shortcuts.

I'm not a huge fan of Microsoft, but I think their tooltips are usually
very good. I could never remember which button was AutoText and which
AutoCorrect, but it didn't matter. The tooltip would tell me, in a few
milliseconds and a single word. I'm certainly glad the tooltip didn't
try to *explain* the difference.

Alan Cooper's "About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design" has
a nice section on buttons and tooltips.

Stuart Burnfield
Functional Software Pty Ltd
mailto:slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au

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