Desktop application I am currently working on has several terms with complex concepts/definitions we have invented ourselves. They certainly deserve to be explained to those who just decide to check the application out or use it for the first time. Problem is that these terms appear in pretty inconvenient places.

That is:

  • Some terms appear as filter criteria (in between all other filter criteria that are understandable from first glance)
  • Some terms as table headers
  • Our application has different types of users. Where is the best place to explain their permissions? (Assuming user itself knows what it can do. When user of one type looks at a profile of user of another type?)
  • Some terms are menu headers
  • All places above will be used very often.

They all are pretty complex - simple tooltip wont do. For "first time excursion" these things are too complex and actually - unnecessary. But at "second visit" they need to be explained. Best I could do is to break them down into one-two sentence explanations and in-depth explanations.

I was thinking about adding little gray (i) bubbles all over the place. But wont it be too much? If say 3 out of 10 filters need it.

Question is - is there an elegant way how to integrate definitions into application or I am better off adding the good old "Help" under menu?

  • Having a mix of experienced and inexperienced users is always awkward.
    – user67695
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 14:57

4 Answers 4


As I understand from what I've read, you probably need an onboarding tool. This simply solves the problem you want to achieve and there are lots of different tools you can find with a little search.

Onboarding tools are pretty straight-forward for adding helpers and/or welcoming gadgets used for user onboarding.

a sample demonstration of an onboarding tools


You are correct, you cannot go ahead and make pop-overs for every difficult term. Coming to the solution, How do you solve the problem in real life when you encounter a word for which you have no idea about? You search, right.

If I have understood your question correctlyenter image description here then this is almost your layout.

Now you want to help people understand typical terms and also some more briefs which cannot and shouldn't be done in tool-tips.

So here is my proposed idea.

Easily expandable help box.

Easy help box solution

Expanded box where user can search for whatever he wants to know.


You could approach this problem in some ways. I'm going to say some alternatives that I think is most likely to help you:

  • If the public is having problem to understand the terminology maybe you should run some experiments/tests to decide the best words to do it. Some techniques may help you:

    • Card Sorting.
    • A/B Testing ... In your case A/B/C/D :p
  • An UI solution could be use an question mark icon on the rightof each difficult. That icon could open a tooltip with something text like "Do not know this term? Click here!". Where "Click here" could be a link to the glossary on the unknown term's page. As an alternate flow, clicking on the question mark go to the same glossary page.

    • This does not discard the necessity of an glossary with all terms available for search suggested by "@Anupam Pareek".
  • Is pretty common in this situations (UI with complex concepts) users to get confused. So using a feedback sub-system can be very helpful to you improve your solution, documentation, naming, etc.

P.S.: If you can, run from creating your own complex concepts. :}

My best, \o


I'd definitely suggest trying Userpilot.com

Or look at other User Onboarding tools

Hopefully they'll solve your complex problems.

  • 1
    Can you please state how these links you provided are going to help answering the question? Maybe if you reference a specific section/feature or useful guidelines ... etc.
    – Mo'ath
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 14:50
  • copy pasting the section from the onboaridng tools: Do it yourself with JavaScript and JsQuery Many developers love to code the in-app experiences themselves. These user onboarding tools are free and specially built for in-app experiences. 3 – Intro.js (Free) Intro.js, a javascript guide, allows you to harness this principle by allowing you to insert a progress bar into your onboarding flow, and get users to actually cross the finish line. These tools explain you different terms based on the user behavior:) Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 16:06

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