I'm searching for a way to have a quick method of applying two different actions to each word within a text.

I currently try do design a UI to help myself learn new vocabulary by reading texts. For this, I display a text and highlight each word which I do not know, yet.

Now I want two different options for each word in the text:

  • search translation of this word (possibly by redirecting to a dictionary website; or displaying it inline if I have data available)
  • mark this word as known (if currently unknown) or unknown (if currently known)

So, each and every word in the text will have two different actions which can be applied to it.

Consider this text below. The italic words are words I do not know, yet:

This is an example text with some unknown words.

Toggling a word between known and unknown - to my current experience - should be quick, because at the beginning of learning, text is mostly unknown. I also want to keep the option of leaving individual words unknown even if I read the whole text, because sometimes I cannot find words in dictionaries and do not understand it from the context.

Thus, I decided to link the toggling directly to clicking on a word. If I clicked on the word unknown in the sample above, I'd now be presented with:

This is an example text with some unknown words.

However, like this I cannot bind the vocabulary lookup to the word itself, anymore. My current idea is to have a small tooltip on hover which displays a button for vocabulary search and possibly another button for "mark word as read" (for people who do not know the direct click option).


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Is there a better way to let a user apply my two actions two each word (quickly)?

1 Answer 1


Mac OSX has a right-click contextual menu somewhat like yours:

enter image description here

I'm concerned about a couple things in your solution. (1) Keep in mind that stray clicks happen. As people mouse around they sometimes touch the mouse button enough to click things they didn't intend to click. So every word you can mark as known has to also be markable as unknown. It looks like you're already planning for that.

(2) You mention tooltips on hover. Your hovers will need a bit of a delay. (That is, they can't be mouseovers.) Otherwise just passing the mouse over the text will show an explosion of tooltips and make people like me want to throw the computer out a window.

  • Plus, if the user wants to mark the word to show the context menu (e.g. for using her own lookup option in Mac OSX or to copy some word) she usually double-clicks. This currently leads to no change (toggle two times), but to me it feels a bit weird to cause an action if I only want to mark a word. Jun 11, 2016 at 11:54

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