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I want to make the user of my software program feel comfortable with the new concepts being put before them. As part of this approach I have adopted the "information button" concept for most of the concepts.

See below for a sample screenshot - the idea is that on mouseclicking an icon, a dialog pops up with helpful information. My question is, as a user would this screen be intimidating or overwhelming - a classic case of "Too Much Information"? Is there a better way of handling the presentation and availability of optional information than buttons arrayed next to the concepts?

Sample UI Screen

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"Selecting" an answer from the high quality responses below is awkward indeed. I think Jung's response is the best, but would like to highly commend Dan's response and Supr's great ideas. I have uprated both of these. – Arvanem Mar 11 '12 at 22:35
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I agree with all of Dan's suggestions. Making the icons smaller and less prominent will not diminish what you're trying to achieve.

Here's an example with 50% reduction in size and 30% reduction in opacity.

enter image description here

Another idea is to use the help icon also as a bullet, so it becomes a part of the label. This reduces the functional ambiguity of the icon. (I may have gone slightly overboard with suppressing the hue of the icons though)

enter image description here

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IMO this screen is problematic because:

  • It's deterring for the user, as every single option appears non trivial (since it requires an explanation).
  • Being the heaviest and most colorful element, makes it be the center of attention instead of the supportive role it should have.
  • So much repetition usually implies a more "global" approach has to be used.

You can have just one such icon (much smaller) on top/bottom saying "get more info about each setting by clicking hovering on its name" (or some other copy). If you insist on using this repetitive layout, at least make the ? very small and not colorful so it's only visible when someone is looking for it.

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I agree - perhaps the design of the application needs to be looked at in more detail. The addition of tooltips / info-button might be masking a more fundamental problem with the application design. – codeinthehole Mar 11 '12 at 15:34

From my personal experience, getting some more information in a tooltip by hovering over a item is a nice way to solve this without cluttering the UI too much... If you go for extra Icons, you should adopt the size down to make sure not distract from your other UI elements...

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Idea 1: Instead of showing the information buttons, have a single button/toggle which toggles a short piece of information above/below each concept, including a link to more details on the concepts that require it.

Idea 2: Use a wizard. Set up a wizard-like walkthrough which introduces the concepts. Put closely related concepts together for cohesiveness and so the user doesn't need to back and forth between the pages. In the end the user could end up on the screen you already have as a sort of summary, with the option of making this (advanced) screen the default in the future.

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