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This is for a debug app (programming) that prints additional information when the mouse is over a certain element.

For example, the app can display a list of class methods. When the user mouse over a method additional information is shown inside a tooltip, like the DocBlock comments for that method.

Currently I'm using CSS and javascript to display the tooltip relative to the mouse cursor position, but I was wondering if it would be a better idea to make it fixed. So when the mouse is over an element, the tooltip will always show in the same place (for example above the element). One advantage of the latter is that it can be implemented with just CSS. But that's less important if it takes away from user experience :)

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Hello Pony, welcome to UX –  Itumac Feb 1 '13 at 16:06
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2 Answers

In general it is best to show the information where the person is looking. If they are looking at a particular element (say the Employee class) then you should show it where they are looking. Otherwise you have a separation between the target and the information.

Think of a wide table where you have to look at name on the left and some other information on the right. Because you aren't able to see both the target and information at the same time, it is much harder and slower to get the information.

A lot however depends on how far away these will likely be. If you were to include mockups, that would help a lot.

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The tooltip adds CONTEXCTUAL information to the element that spawned it, right? (It may even have an arrow pointing to the hover element)

So it belongs to the reference element not the mouse. I suggest once it's spawned leave it where it is.

Not only is it distracting and makes the tip harder to read when its moving. It will disappear if you mouse out. And your users will have to move the mouse again to read it.

BTW:I did a quick look around so I don't get my head chewed off for saying this with out some back up...the majority of tool tips are static, probably for this reason.

The one reason to consider the tip to follow the mouse is if every element on the screen requires a tool tip. It MAY be more readable if the tip follows along and the text changes. That is a judgement call for you.

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