We're debating inside our team on whether to use a question mark icon, or an "i" icon for prompting a tooltip that reveals more info.

Which do you say conveys the message better? Or, how do they differ in the message they convey?

  • 2
    Is it more information of more help. On this page they have ?. I like ? but you I think you should call it help over information. – paparazzo Sep 29 '14 at 14:33

The convention is that the question mark indicates extensive help is available, provides an interface for someone having a problem to click, and implies that a more sophisticated means of resolving the problem is being offered. The (i) indicates only that some additional explanatory information is available, but not an extensive help system.

Think of an (i) icon as being analogous to no more than the instruction plate mounted next to an operating control on a machine, and the (?) icon as being analogous to a link to the to the entire system's operating manual, already opened to the relevant page.

For your described use case it sounds like the (i) icon is appropriate.

  • +1 but if you look at this site the ? icon is use for specific help. – paparazzo Sep 29 '14 at 14:44
  • Indeed, (i) and (?) have different semantics. – Alexey Kolchenko Sep 29 '14 at 17:55
  • 12
    The Windows Design Guidelines agree with this answer: msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/… – David Sep 29 '14 at 19:58
  • 2
    Agree with the answer, but not sure I'd call it a convention though noting how many sites do not follow it. – David Mulder Sep 29 '14 at 22:14
  • 4
    A convention isn't defined by the exceptions, but by its acceptance. And this is what people expect today. – John Deters Sep 30 '14 at 1:10

The difference between the symbols as UI element is that, from the perspective of the system, "?" is passive, and "i" is active:

With the "?", the system offers the information to the user, that he needs when he has a question.

With the "i", the system offers the additional information to the user, that may be useful even when he does not have a question.

So "i" is the right one to use if you have information that

  • the user would not ask for, because he's not missing it
  • is useful for a user who is interested in the details.
  • You didn't mention an i – CodesInChaos Sep 30 '14 at 12:09
  • Oops, need coffee, thanks ;) Edited "!" to "i". – Volker Siegel Sep 30 '14 at 12:14

"i" when information is already present and known to the user, but is not visible directly. Indicates general guides to help the user.

"?" when information is already present/ being used and might know it or is uncertain about it, also the information is not visible. Indicates the complete understanding of the basic info available.

  • 1
    Can you provide more detail here? Is this an established standard or just your opinion? How do you know that everyone looking at 'i' or '?' shares your opinion? – JonW Feb 25 '20 at 13:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.