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  • Writer's pictureMarc Chia

3 Tooltip Design Tips To Make Your User Experience (UX) Better For SaaS

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Tooltips when used correctly have the potential to significantly improve your user experience while at the same time limiting customer support and software administration. In the following we explain how this works.

What is a Tooltip?

By definition, a tooltip is a brief informative message that appears when a user interacts with an element in a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Typically, this is initiated by having a user hover their mouse over an element in the page or in some other cases having a user click a keyboard binding that activates tooltip information. For the purposes of this article, we will be talking specifically about these kinds of hovertips / keybinding tooltips and their uses in reference to software as a service (SaaS). For discussion of walkthrough style tooltips please see our article on “7 Tips For Building Digital Walkthroughs To Drive Adoption & Reduce Churn”.

Generally, a tooltip is less intrusive to user experience than a full-blown UX/UI overhaul that can change the entire flow and interaction a user has with a platform. Instead of re-designing the flow of usage, tooltips allow software teams to provide what is essentially an on-demand pop-up to explain the functionality and guide users through a flow. On the flip side, an overreliance on tooltips is often an indicator that there are significant issues with a site and it may be time to update it.

From an administration perspective, tooltips are also helpful as they can be implemented relatively quickly where needed. Any updates to copywriting are also easy to complete. This may take anywhere from a couple of minutes to a day depending on your software infrastructure and expertise. In comparison, a UX/UI rebuild can take months.

Tip 1 - Use tooltips only when required

The general ease of setting up tooltips means that they can be prone to abuse and clutter up interfaces when mismanaged. Teams should implement this on a "less is more" basis. Tooltips by themselves are no replacement for proper training and onboarding. Instead, they should support that process and be sprinkled sparingly to help users understand the different parts of your system.

If you are already having good UX/UI design tooltips may be superfluous and in fact, create friction for your user experience. An example is where relatively clear iconography is already being used.

Example 1.

Asana’s project management software “+” sign iconography revealing a dropdown to add different project management aids is clear and requires no tooltips.

On the other hand, tooltips are useful as a quick guide for unique or complex terms that may be unfamiliar to your users. This is determined on a case-by-case basis and what is normal or unfamiliar has to be defined by reference to the specific digital solution and its users.

Example 2.

Tiger Brokers a brokerage platform for retail traders includes tooltips to explain certain technical terms that may be unfamiliar for amateur investors who form a significant portion of their platform.

Tip 2 - Copywriting must be succinct and value-driven

Tooltips are designed to be quick information drops for users. They should not end up being an essay that takes too long to read nor be knowledge that is otherwise obvious to the user. For example, information on a search bar’s basic usage is not helpful to users who would be familiar with how it operates but a tooltip that explains Boolean operators such as AND, OR etc. may surprise and be helpful to users.

Generally speaking, we recommend that tooltips not exceed 3 sentences. If an in-depth explanation is required, a link can be placed within the text prompt to an article exploring the full details. Instead, what a tooltip prompt should focus on is an explanation of the point of interest and how this is valuable to the user.

Tip 3 - Analyse and update them over time

As with all other things, having analytics to support the evolution of tooltips to support user efforts is important. Data collected can be both quantitative and qualitative. The latter being obtained through user testing sessions and feedback.

On the point of quantitative data analysis, having user experience analytics tools can be immensely helpful to understand the value of tooltips. In particular, setting up goals for user experience such as the ability to complete certain user flows and measuring how tooltips support or detract from that experience can be helpful.


When used right, tooltips can be a great addition to your UX/UI design toolkit to support the user experience. Careful and considered thought put into the design is likely to be a powerful tool to ensure the overall success of your product.

If you would like to have a tool that can make tooltips quick and easy to implement and administer for users, do check out our page at where we enable you to set up tooltips within minutes.

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