The application is a 3D map of a large work area (several rooms), with information tabs at the bottom. Users can rotate and zoom the map, click on a room for details, click a piece of equipment for specs, manuals, etc.

At the top of the screen are arrows to move the map around and a zoom slider. I'd like to add tooltips to those navigation buttons to make sure their function is understood. Tooltip text for the slider is pretty obvious: Zoom In on the plus sign, Zoom Out on the minus sign, "Slide to Zoom" on the slider itself. But I'm not sure what should go on the arrows.

What I'm currently leaning toward is: Move Map Up, Move Map Down, Move Map Right, and Move Map Left on the appropriate arrows. ("Map" might be redundant, but I want to differentiate between moving the map and changing your perspective relative to the map.)

Do these make sense? Is there a more concise or clearer phrasing I could use?

2 Answers 2


Design the buttons in such a way that tooltips are almost superfluous. Then my suggestion to name the tooltips would be: scroll up, scroll right, scroll down, scroll left.

You're not really moving the map, you're just scrolling through it.

  • 2
    +1 for your first sentence, which should be the ideal for every interface element; Don't Make Me Think.
    – msanford
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 14:14
  • 3
    Thank you! I definitely agree that the buttons' functions should be obvious without the tooltips, and you're right about "Scroll" vs "move map." Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 15:58

I'd set a single tooltip for the whole set of navigation artifacts, communicating something like "set of tools to move and rotate the map [help button hith details]".
As of the individual controls, I'd do what Bart said: obvious albeit concise labels.

There is another consideration: tooltips tend to get in the way of what the user is trying to point at, especially for slower users.
Accounting for this, I'd set the tooltip to not appear any more after it showed one or two times.

  • +1 for the suggestion to limit how many times the tooltip appears. Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 20:56
  • 1
    I am not sure if limiting how many times the tooltip appears is a good idea. Will you have 1 general usage counter for all tooltips? That means that after a while you don't get a tooltip for buttons you have never used before. Will you have a usage counter per button? Then after a while, some buttons will have tooltips, others won't. That's inconsistent. What if another user wants to use your computer? If you really want to have a possibility to remove the tooltips, make it an options "show tooltips" in the applications's user preferences. Commented Sep 21, 2012 at 6:08
  • 1
    @Bart: good questioning. Actually, I don't remember having tried this, so I don't have solid info. My suggestion was because I guessed that Kelly would surely gather all the map-moving controls together, a location where the user might get back to frequently, and after a few times having to see the same tooltip yet another time would be annoying. So yes, it's a per-item counter, but only for the map navigation controls cluster. It it was my page I'd put a small help icon there just in case a user feels lost, with detailed information.
    – Juan Lanus
    Commented Sep 21, 2012 at 13:03
  • Imo, tooltips should either appear always appear or never. I have not yet seen any application where the tooltips stop appearig after a while.
    – User 1
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:02

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.