I'm making a GUI that controls some custom hardware using MATLAB. Since many of the parameter fields are highly technical, I'm using tooltips to give more detailed descriptions of each of the fields. Most of my fields look something like this:

Example of field layout

Because of how MATLAB GUIDE works, the label, entry box, and units are all separate entities with separate tooltips. I am wondering, which object should have the tooltip? The entry box? The label? All three? The main downside to using multiple objects is that there is a slight gap between them, so the tooltip would disappear and reappear when moving the cursor over the gap.

1 Answer 1


I'd personally recommend having an extra icon either before the label or after the units with a question mark in it much like below:

enter image description here

Have the icon hold the tool-tip. The question mark tells people instantly at a glance that they can get more information there so if they're unsure they'll go straight for that.

This is better than having the user have to mouse over each of the three elements individually to figure out which one is going to display the extra information.


If you don't want the icon, another suggestion is to put it on the label, but make sure that you SHOW the user that it's on the label. Pretty much put it wherever you feel best (on the box, units or label) but make sure that the user can easily see where they can get the information. You may have seen labels like this before:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

But instead of a solid underline, use a dotted underline. I know for me personally, if I see a dotted underline, it usually means I can get more information by clicking or hover over that text.

  • 2
    On a separate note - did you realise that there is a Balsamiq plug-in already available within this site? When answering a question there's an icon for creating a mockup. (Next to the Insert Image icon).
    – JonW
    Dec 1, 2016 at 16:13
  • I did not! Thanks for the advice :)
    – fletch254
    Dec 1, 2016 at 16:24
  • My concern with this approach is that with dozens of different fields in a not always uniform layout, adding an extra icon for every single field is going to add a lot of clutter and eat up space.
    – David K
    Dec 1, 2016 at 16:33
  • @DavidK in that case, could you condense all of the tooltip information into a single text block which could be displayed when the user clicks an information for a section or even the whole form? Dec 1, 2016 at 16:54
  • @AndrewMartin I do have a separate User Guide document that goes through every single field in even more detail. I could add a button to open the document, but I think the tooltips are still necessary.
    – David K
    Dec 1, 2016 at 17:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.