My hypothesis is that if you have old plain HTML forms, users are more likely to hover over elements and read tooltip texts giving more details about them. But if you style the forms to look new/fresh/cool/nice etc., people expect explanation texts and hints under or next to the fields much more and are less likely to discover the old HTML tooltips.

Result of this is that today you need to invest not just into styling of forms, but also into higher quality explanation texts, hint elements like question mark icons etc. People are having higher demands when seeing nicely styled form basically.

Somebody tried to prove this? Is there some kind of study available online? Or is just your experience same like the of mine?

  • Im not too sure what the question is. I think I'm reading it as: "do people prefer newer design as apposed to an older one?"
    – UXerUIer
    Feb 12, 2015 at 13:14
  • 3
    "I reckon people will expect tool tips of old looking systems while they won't expect them on new looking systems- is there any research to prove this?" is what I read. Feb 12, 2015 at 13:16
  • @theotherone - thank you very much for summing it up!
    – digsrafik
    Feb 12, 2015 at 13:17
  • Tooltips are not specific to HTML. I don't see why a "new looking" system should not continue to use tooltips? Tooltips are good way to get clutter off the screen.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 12, 2015 at 15:48
  • I am not implying that you shouldn't use tooltips in general. My question is strictly questioning whether "HTML tooltip attribute way of display" is enough in every HTML form or the new fancy styled once are proved to "need more".
    – digsrafik
    Feb 13, 2015 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


I'd suggest it's not an aesthetic issue so much as a functional one. The tooltip just happens to be part of an older approach to solving this problem. People don't expect them on newer sites because they aren't as useful and have since been replaced by other solutions.

Because you can't "hover" on a phone or tablet the "old" tooltip approach is now largely useless. There are mobile-friendly alternatives, but in general the shift to mobile led to the "new look" out of necessity, including the use of better placeholder text, instructions that aren't obscured by fat fingers, larger touch-friendly input boxes, etc.

New user expectations arose from this new functional requirement - not simply a preference for an aesthetic change. Is there a kind of feedback loop where new mobile design trends are influencing desktop designs? Absolutely! But I don't think you can limit it to simply "old look vs new look" - it's also a question of how you solve the problem of presenting useful form information in a different context.

This question asked about mobile best practices for tooltips & has some specific suggestions for alternatives to traditional ones. I found this discussion from StackOverflow to be interesting since it dates from the early iPhone days when this was still an emerging topic. Didn't find any specific research though, sorry.


In that people expect old things to look old, and new things to look new, I suppose there is some validity to that.

I have no data to back this up, but I strongly advocate the abolishment of tooltips--at least in the context of forms. For a few reasons:

  • they're rarely consistently implemented and become usability hurdles
  • they're often poorly coded and lack accessibility features
  • they're often used out of habit rather than necessity, so offer no real value to the user
  • they're just a pain on touch devices
  • and, this is the big one: If the content is actually that important, why are we hiding it in a tooltip?

When reviewing most existing forms, I often find that 80% or so of the tooltips are pointless and can be omitted by simply having a better label for the field and the remaining 20% are important bits of text that really should be on the form itself and not hidden behind an interaction.

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