Is there a way to do tooltips on a button in touch devices? On a large screen, if I have a button and some additional content on what that button does, I would use a tooltip.

Suppose am doing responsive web design and I want to use the same tooltip in the bottom, how is this achieved?

I could provide a circle with a question mark in it next to the button. Tapping on this toggles ALL the tooltips on the page.

I don't want to add the tooltip to a button/element on touch because, I want the element's action to fire. Tap once for tooltip tap second time for action doesn't work.

I know there's already a question but that doesn't clearly answer my expectation

How to provide tooltip-like hint on a Touch Screen and user to move it to another item (viiew tooltip for other screen elements)

I hope my question is clear

  • 4
    It sounds like you've come up with a solution (i.e. using tooltips) and are now trying to shoehorn that solution to fit into the situation. That's the wrong way to do things. Hover effects don't work on touch devices (or users who browse desktops with keyboards and not mouse. Or who use screenreaders...) If you need to provide hints on elements then don't pick the solution first, analyse the situation itself and come up with something that works for that. The requirement is 'provide hints on screen' so start from there.
    – JonW
    Mar 13, 2014 at 11:07
  • 1
    I agree, I was trying to reverse engineer the solution to a problem. I guess really the solution is to have a UI that doesn't require that explanation/hint. Or dedicate a portion of the screen to that explanation. If you would add your response as an answer I could mark it as selected. Mar 13, 2014 at 12:54
  • Thanks, but I didn't really answer your question, I just gave you a different way to think about it. Therefore my comment isn't really an answer, just a comment so is probably best left as is.
    – JonW
    Mar 13, 2014 at 13:00

1 Answer 1


The strength of traditional tooltips is that they are highly contextualized, and only visible when the user is focused on that particular task.

This is the benefit that you're truly trying to replicate for touch – not the tooltips themselves. This benefit can be replicated in a few ways, a few of which revolve around the design principle of progressive disclosure:

  1. If it's a form, show supplementary info when the input is in focus.
  2. Create swipe events to or add "info" buttons to reveal assisting content when requested.
  3. Provide a robust onboarding or tutorial flow to teach the user the functionality (if done effectively, they'll remember things once they've been taught)
  4. Just leave the supplementary content visible at all times. If you do this, you may want to consider increasing the focus of steps in your flow (i.e., if filling out a form, only show that form and nothing else)

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Just remembered another option I've seen on touch devices – the long press to reveal tooltips. I'm not personally a fan of this approach simply because users aren't often aware of the functionality unless they've toyed around with the interface enough to figure it out on their own.
    – ewittke
    Mar 13, 2014 at 15:20

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