UX designers have introduced the delay before a tooltip shows up to make sure that the user actually wants to see the tooltip. The 300-500 millisecond pause is to ensure user intent is to see what is behind the tooltip and not mousing by on their way to something else. Today, we will discuss if this is a good UX practice.
Generally, yes. But not always. We believe user research should answer this question.
First, let’s take a look at the reasons for implementing the delay:
1) Reduce cognitive load by ensuring that the user wants to see the tooltip before it is displayed
2) Tooltips can be visually distracting, so by delaying their appearance, you’re giving the user a better opportunity to focus on the task at hand
Both of these reasons make sense, but do they actually hold up in practice?
There is some evidence to suggest that delaying the appearance of tooltips does not actually reduce cognitive load. Similarly, there is a belief that delaying the appearance of tooltips can be visually distracting.
So, what do we make of all this?
It seems that there is no clear consensus on whether or not delaying the appearance of tooltips is a good UX practice. It depends on the use case. There is a list of steps for the Neilson Norman Group that we can apply if the case requires a delay:
- Mouse cursor enters target area: display visual feedback within 0.1 seconds.
- Wait 0.3–0.5 seconds.
- If the cursor remains stopped within the target area, display corresponding hidden content within 0.1 seconds.
- Keep displaying the exposed content element until the cursor has left the triggering target area or the exposed content for longer than 0.5 seconds.
If you are considering implementing a delay before tooltip appearances, it is important to test it out with your own users to see if it is effective. If you find that the delay is causing a decrease in performance or distraction, you may want to consider reversing the delay or finding another way to reduce the cognitive load or visual distraction.