Should we use tooltips on text/links? I see many frameworks like Foundation support tooltips on text but I don't know the reason why? I assumed text is self explanatory but I believe Foundation must have a good reason to have tooltips appear on text.


What are some examples where one might need to use a tooltip on text/link?

3 Answers 3


From the website you linked:

Tooltips are a quick way to provide extended information on a term or action on a page

In text there could be a number of applications for this:

  • Provide glossary information on a term the user might be confused about
  • Show footnote text without having to take the user to the bottom of the page
  • Show target of links (if you're worried the user can't see it in their browser status bar)
  • On a page about Unicode show the character code for particular characters on the page.
    • More generally, on a page where any textual content can be related to other textual content, use the tooltips to relate them.
  • Easter eggs hidden in the text of a page

I have two examples to share that were successful:

  • Long titles exceed character limits. When the titles are force-truncated and cutting off distinguishing info. You can easily wind up with a list of 3 or more titles that appear identical to one another. A tooltip makes a nice fallback so users can find info without leaving the page (which adds more cog load.)
    • Paginating large data sets. ex. The series links < 1, 2, 3, 4… > pattern only offers a blind path forward. Instead of this, tooltips could be used on each numbered link to reveal contextual info. Such as the first and last dates appearing within, 1996–2000, 2001–2005,… or alphabetical: A–Ab, Ai, Al–Av.

It's best practice to always design interfaces based on recognition. If a user recognizes a tooltip graphic like a pencil, they will understand that it may be used for editing something (depending on the context of course). The goal is to reduce the cognitive load of the user and provide a pleasant experience. If you're going to use a tooltip, use one that is associated with where the link will take the user or what the link will be used for. Consider the tasks the user will be completing while clicking on your link. Elements on the page should support the task the user needs to complete.

  • 2
    This answer gives me the impression that you're misinterpreting what the OP means by "tooltip". Do you think a tooltip is something like an icon of the kind you might see in the toolbar of an application? Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 6:35
  • Yes I may have misinterpreted it. However I believe by considering key user tasks you can design around what the user is looking to complete. Choosing to put a tool tip on an important link associated with a key user task could help the user complete their task. It's really about contrast; bringing forward key elements of the interface that are important to the user.
    – Dgella89
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 13:17

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