Having tooltips on icons and images is understandable and the same goes for small pieces of links where tooltips may elaborate to the user what that particular link would do. Sometimes, however, people use a tooltip on a textual link which already says exactly the same thing as the tooltip.

Personally I thought this was not a very good idea but seeing that even big companies do so in their web application (gmail, for example, which says 'Inbox' when you mouse over it) I guess there is some valid point.

For example if a website has a link with text 'Home' and when I mouse over it, it says 'Home' in the tooltip. Why is this practiced like this? What is the point?

Inbox tooltip in Gmail

  • 6
    This practice is particularly annoying and reduces usability when it occurs on the heading for a drop down menu where the tooltip that appears inevitably obscures the first entry in the menu. That really spoils my day.
    – phinetune
    Aug 25, 2011 at 12:58

5 Answers 5


It might be for consistency. If users see tooltips on most links/buttons/images, and then they move over something and don't see it, they might wait for it or think the site is broken. Instead of removing the redundant tooltip, it would be better to make useful tooltips for all such elements (or none, if the links are self-explanatory).

This is different from alt. Alt text is used if the image isn't loaded, but sometimes people load images and can't read them (text too small, icon ambiguous, etc). Alt won't help in that case.


I think it has got to do with accessibility, screen readers can be set (or is it default behavior?) to read the 'title' of the links. This practice makes particular sense for high volume sites like google who probably get a fair number of users using screen readers.

note: page from 2005! ref to study how the screenreader reads the TITLE attribute in various HTML elements

  • 3
    I don't think that applies in this specific situation honestly; "Inbox" might be read twice here (I haven't tested) as Inbox is actually written in text, AND applied as a title to the link. If it were an image it should use the alt element for screen readers anyway not title. I think this was intended for consistency.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 26, 2011 at 13:53
  • you are right, I guess it does boil down to consistency here.
    – Kashyap
    Aug 26, 2011 at 17:25

Please correct me if I am wrong, but in this case it is understable. Tooltips are only shown with labels. Since the left sidebar has a fixed with it can happen that a user chooses a label name that is to long and will be cut off. So now the tooltip shows the complete label name. Because it is probably easier to just do a title on all label links than just the ones too long, every link now has a tooltip.

But generally speaking a tooltips idea is to give further explaination for something. The moment you explain something with itself or another vocable it just raises user frustration.

  • 3
    "Because it is probably easier to just do a title on all label links than just the ones too long, every link now has a tooltip." Actually, in most Windows development environments this is totally not true. And even if it would be easier, that's not a good reason. Aug 26, 2011 at 12:07

To answer your question: no, it's not. Having the exact same text is just not adding help, but adding distraction. A mayor annoyance as phinetune put it.

Edit The fact that, in this case, it might be necessary doesn't make it right. A good design would not have this problem.


Simply answer: no. The example makes absolutely no sense at all. There is no reason to show that tooltip, because it does not give any extra information.

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