Improved Tooltip Design for Mobile User Interfaces

Improved Tooltip Design for Mobile User Interfaces

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In today’s digital age, mobile user interfaces have become integral to our daily lives. With the widespread use of smartphones and mobile devices, designing a user-friendly mobile interface that provides a seamless experience for users has become more important than ever. One essential element of this mobile interface design is tooltips.

What are tooltips, and how can your web design better ones to enhance the app or website experience?

This article will discuss how to design tooltips to amplify your mobile designs and help you communicate more effectively with your audience.

Let’s start from the top and quickly define what exactly mobile tooltips are.

What are Mobile Tooltips?

Mobile tooltips are small information windows that appear on the screen when a user interacts with an element, such as an icon, button, image, or hyperlink. Tooltips are usually text-based, highlighting key features or functions, alerting new updates, and providing extra information about them.

Mobile tooltips can be triggered in various ways, such as when a user taps and holds an element, hovers over an element, or taps on an element with multiple options. They often appear as a small box or bubble with a short text description or an icon, and they can include images or links to other parts of the app or website.

Mobile tooltips help users understand an app or website’s different features and functions and provide guidance on how to use them effectively. By providing contextual information in a quick and easily accessible way, mobile tooltips can improve the user experience and make it easier for users to accomplish their goals within the app or website.

Designing Better Mobile Tooltips

Designing tooltips for mobile devices differs from computer tooltips because mobile devices have smaller screen dimensions, so there’s little room for lengthy texts, unlike desktop computers, where there’s a lot of space to play around. So, a subtle tooltip on a large screen will be more prominent on mobile.

Here are some tips to keep in mind to make the most of your limited creative space:

  • Keep It Short and Simple

Mobile users have short attention spans, so keeping tooltips brief and to the point is crucial. Avoid long blocks of text or complicated instructions that might overwhelm the user. Tooltips should be at most two lines of text. If you have more to say, break up the long messages into multiple tooltips. This will help readers comprehend the information quickly. You can also use familiar acronyms and abbreviations that your audience will understand easily.

  • Use Simple Language 

In addition to keeping tooltips short, it’s also essential to use simple language that communicates the intended message clearly and effectively.

Avoid using technical jargon, acronyms, or overly complex terms that might confuse the user. If the language is difficult to understand, users may quickly become frustrated or give up on trying to understand the tooltip, leading to a poor user experience. The purpose of tooltips is to guide users, not confuse them. So stick to plain language that is concise, clear, and accessible to everyone.

  • Make the Tooltip Easy to Spot

Use bold, contrasting colors for backgrounds and text to make the tooltip stand out from the rest of your UI. For instance, a tooltip that appears over a button or icon could be highlighted with a subtle animation or a contrasting color to draw users’ attention. However, be mindful of the colors you use. Visually impaired users may struggle to distinguish between white pages and grey tooltips.

  • Use a Large Font Size

Mobile devices have smaller screens than desktop computers, so it’s crucial to use a large font size that can be easily read. Large font sizes can also be helpful for users with visual impairments or those using their mobile devices in a low-light environment.

In addition to using a large font size, you should consider using a clear and legible font type, such as sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica. These fonts are often easier to read on small screens and help ensure that users can read and understand the information in the tooltip.

  • Make it Easy to Dismiss

While tooltips can be helpful, they can also be annoying if they appear too frequently or are difficult to dismiss. Ensure users can easily dismiss tooltips if they don’t need them or already understand the information.

Provide a clear and visible close button or icon to dismiss tooltips. The close button should be placed in a prominent location, such as the upper right-hand corner of the tooltip, and should be large enough to be easily clicked or tapped on a mobile device. Using a contrasting color or animation for the close button can also make it easier to spot. Or allow them to be dismissed with a simple gesture. For example, users could swipe left or right on the tooltip to dismiss it or tap anywhere outside it to close it.

  • Avoid Using Too Many Graphics or Animations

Graphics and animations are helpful tools for drawing attention to tooltips, but they can be distracting and overwhelming for users when used excessively. Too many visual elements can make it difficult for users to focus and process the information presented in the tooltip, particularly those with visual or cognitive impairments.

Instead, stick to simple text and icons to present the information clearly and concisely so that users can understand the tooltip at a glance.

  • Consider Tooltips Placement 

The placement of a tooltip can significantly impact the user experience, as tooltips that are positioned inappropriately can be difficult to see or may interfere with the user’s ability to interact with the app or website.

For example, if the tooltip is too small or positioned too close to other elements, it may be difficult to read or interact with. On the other hand, if the tooltip is too large or positioned in the middle of the screen, it may interfere with the user’s ability to interact with other elements on the screen. When this happens, they are much more likely to dismiss the message without reading it.

One effective strategy for positioning mobile tooltips is to place them at the edge of the screen. They are less likely to interfere with other elements at this position, or better still, use a hover or tap-and-hold gesture to activate the tooltip rather than displaying it constantly on the screen. This can help reduce visual clutter and make it easier for users to focus on the main content of the app or website.

  • Consider the Timing

Tooltips that appear or disappear too quickly or slowly can confuse or frustrate users. Tooltips should appear shortly after the user interacts with a button or link rather than too quickly so that the user has time to focus on the main content before the tooltip appears.

While tooltips must appear at the right time, they must also not stay too long. Tooltips that appear too long can annoy users, while tooltips that disappear too quickly may not give users enough time to read and absorb the information.


Tooltips are a great way of providing supplemental information and guidance to users precisely when needed without taking up too much space or overwhelming them with text.

With these best practices in mind when designing your tooltips, you can create informative tooltips that will improve the overall user experience of your app or website.

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