Would tooltips icons to the right of table headers be used?

I have a table with short information on each column header. I don't want to clutter the screen with an icon [i] on the side of each header but I do want to spell out the information when it is used.

So... If I place tooltips on the column headers without icons like in the image below, would a user find out the tooltips? Or do you have an alternative solution to a short title explanation?

enter image description here

  • 1
    Still you display edit icons for each cell, which indeed clutters the view. Go the opposite way: (i) icons in columns header are visible always, while edit icons are visible only for current row (on hover). Commented Nov 30, 2013 at 10:11

2 Answers 2


I think it's pretty much an accepted standard to use [i] (or similar) icons beside each item you want to display help - changing the industry standard instantly gives your customers another thing to think about. A good book to read on this kind of thing is Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think"

Example - everyone expects a front door handle to be at hand height, and the interaction to open or close is pretty much set in stone. If you came up with an amazing design for the door itself, but it meant you needed to move the handle away from the norm and to the very bottom of the door, or even worse, not showing the handle at all, you're instantly making it more difficult for people to naturally get past the obstacle in front of them.

If you're really in the mindset of not using [i] icons I guess you have a couple options you could test out, which might make it still obvious this help text is there.

New design on an old idea

Redesign yourself a new [i] icon. I'm assuming you'd want it more streamlined, less bulky, but ultimately provides the same purpose type icon though.

Dotted underline

The good old fashioned 'attr/abbr' dotted underline. Visually people will know it's different, out of pure curiosity, most people will hover over, and as long as your animations isn't too time delayed, they will get the idea of what this now means on your site. You could re-enforce this with a change of cursor type on hover too.

Try them, test it out, and see how people interact with it, but it's still a slight move away from the norm.

Remember - UX isn't just design.
A lot of people make the instant assumption that a nice design = a nice experience. You could have the nicest website in the world, but if people can't easily find what they're looking for, it's not going to be the best experience.

Hope this helps.


I definitely wouldn't think to mouse-over table headers to get tooltips. Since you don't want to show a tooltip cue after each header, could you instead add a single help button on the screen that explains the different columns?

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