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I have a tooltip with 5 words like "Try out some custom options" in my application.

My goal is to get people to interact more with options. Is there any basis to calculate how long to leave that tooltip visible for someone to have enough time to read it before I automatically close it?

The site http://niram.org/read/ calculates this read time as 1 second and right now I'm holding it visible for 8 seconds.

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    Why not have it stay there but also have a way to dismiss it? With an x or say dismiss? – Majo0od Apr 3 '15 at 16:36
  • Kind of like gmail! – Majo0od Apr 3 '15 at 16:36
  • What I was trying to avoid was "interface fiddling necessity". Basically, I want to take care of things for the user rather than make them feel like it is an obstruction for them to deal with. Also, if they do interact with options as intended, it goes away immediately. – jkuss Apr 3 '15 at 16:45
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    Related but not duplicates: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/358/… and ux.stackexchange.com/questions/11203/… – tohster Apr 3 '15 at 17:09
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You're almost there

Read time is a key component of figuring out the right animation sequence. Let's complete the exercise.


Observation: Tooltips can be helpful but are visually intrusive (they break grid layouts and alignment, are bold by design, etc). So they are helpful to draw attention to something, but quickly overstay their welcome if you leave them hanging around for too long.


Let's design the sequence. Presumably what you want to do is:

1. Draw attention to the tooltip

  • Here, the opening animation and placement for the tooltip is important. First, make sure the tooltip is placed somewhere the user can see it, and placed close or next to the action you want the user to take. Second, figure out how to use animation, color, or shape to draw the user's attention to it. If you're using animation, I've found a transition of somewhere between 200ms and 600ms is usually enough to rivet attention and avoid cognitive disruption (too fast) or inattention/impatience (too slow).

2. Make sure the user has time to read it.

  • You've done this with the Niram test.

3. Make sure the message is effectively worded.

  • Can't help you here. Get a good proofreader :-)

4. Dismiss the tooltip before it becomes annoying.

  • If you've done a good job with #1 through #3, you should NOT have to keep the tooltip around any longer than a few seconds after it appears. If you are sure you have the user's attention, then you don't even have to wait a few seconds.

That should provide you with a decent framework to drive a design that works for you.

  • Thanks for the detailed breakdown. I am already doing steps 1-3 and I mostly went for a 'gut feeling' on time. Our application is not data intensive in that people are not blazing through options/checkboxes/text entry. Actions are more deliberate and considered before choosing, therefore I don't think I'm annoying anyone but wanted to see what others have done. – jkuss Apr 3 '15 at 17:48

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