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Nothing drives me crazier than referencing a help tool tip only to find it states the friggin’ obvious.  For example, we use DotNetNuke (DNN) quite a bit and the forms are not always clear.  Actually, the norm is that the forms are very confusing so any help from a tooltip is very much appreciated.  Let me back up. 

DotNetNuke is a website content management system so most of what you do is configure the settings.  Configuring the setting incorrectly could result in a major headache for you.  You want to get it right the first time.

Recently I had to configure a new security role in DNN.  One of the form fields was “Public Role”.  Ok, hmm, what exactly does “Public Role” mean.  One thing I didn’t want to do was give my users unauthorized access to the backend of my website.

Here is the help tool tip that DNN offered:

Really?  That is the BEST you can do?  This tooltip is TERRIBLE!  What is a Public Role?  I think someone pretty low on the food chain could figure out that if you checked the box it would make the role a Public Role.  The tooltip offered no help at all.

A good tool tip would state more than the obvious.

DotNetNuke could have easily told me what a “Public Role” was and the implications if I checked it.  The tool tip is hidden by default so it takes up no space on the page unless I need it… which I did.

The correct tooltip for Public Role:

A Public Role is a role that is automatically visible and available to any registered user of your site.  Checking this will give registered users of your site the ability to sign up for this role themselves.

3 Steps to Great Tooltips on Forms

1. Define or describe the purpose of the field

2. State the consequences of using the field

Example, “if you check this box.. this will happen”

3. Don’t just state the obvious

Give people a little credit.  Example, “Is this role a public role?”  Duh, If I wanted it to be a public role I would obviously check the box.. but what is a “public role”?