I've been scouring the web, but haven't been finding much with regards to different options on how to present help text and/or documentation. Obviously, there's an established pattern of just having a Help or FAQ menu item and then linking to some giant document, but I'm looking for something a little more context-sensitive and/or integrated within the content (but non-obtrusive, of course).

Can anyone point me to some good examples of alternatives to the traditional Help menu item? I've got some ideas of my own but would like some inspiration or validation.

2 Answers 2


Expandable Help Sections

StackExchange has a persistent help icon that offers some quick information to assist the user. If the information is not enough, the advanced help text links to a separate page of documentation.

This pattern is good for websites and maybe even web applications but probably is not ideal within a native program.


Many native programs and web applications provide tooltips when hovering over a button to offer additional context-based information.

This is good for when you only need a brief explanation of a piece of functionality or you can offer additional help with a key press as shown in the image.


EDIT: I noticed that this answer actually has the same format as @WilliamAnderson's answer. That was completely coincidental. Either that, or I thought of these two answers after reading the previously mentioned dev's answer. I'm sorry

MDN's voice-change-o-matic has a help button that when clicked causes an information panel to slide into view. This panel has extra info on certain APIs used to make the application. The APIs are of course linked to documentation pages. Here's the example in action:

gif of mdn voice-change-o-matic help section

You can use this idea to create a help button that can even show all the documentation. But, of course, this brings up the issue of information overload. To go around this human issue, you can do what Google does, have a documentation only search bar. This bar will allow your users to search for what they want and then show them the things related to that search. An example would be Google Analytics, as you will see below, it helps a lot to have a search bar that will show you the article/documentation.

google analytics help section example

By the way, these articles aren't specifically created for the help bar, but instead it loads the Google support articles for Google Analytics

MDN also uses tooltips in an interesting way: the link has a very descriptive tool tip of the API being talked about (example)

gif of mdn descriptive tooltip

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.