Help text and tool tips in user preferences

As as the discourse user base grows, the number of “non-technical users” is growing. Here is a suggestion for how the user-preference area could be made more accessible. The mock-up screenshot below illustrates both of them at the same time:

  1. Each tab of the user preferences should have a short explanation of what this tab is about. Putting it directly under the heading probably makes most sense.
  2. The same text should also displayed as a tool-tip when hovering over the respective menu item because it would make it very easy to check what each item is about without clicking on them.

The sample text in the image is just a quick idea and can certainly be improved, but my specs for these texts would be that they should aboid using the terms that are already on the respective page. So in the mock-up, I think it wouldn’t be very helpful to say something like “Here you can select which categories you want to watch, track, watch first post, or mute” because it wouldn’t provide much more information than what’s already quite apparent.

As I think about it, though, I realize that the added value (of the bad example) would not actually be zero because it does tell people that what you enter into the available fields are categories. Something that is not apparent unless you read the small print. Which leads me to suggest:

  1. Perhaps the “Search…” text could be replaced with “Search categories…”? Or even a different text in each field: “Seach categories to watch…”, “Seach categories to track…”?

Yes, this isn’t a bad idea, but maybe only for TL0 and possibly TL1 users.

Ehhh I don’t think “secret” hover behaviors should really be encouraged in the world any more. Smartphones have basically made them obsolete anyway; there’s no way to get that paradigm to work on touch. Hover tooltips, to me, seem more like an oddball UI crutch than a thing people really need.


Definitely TL1, I’d say, given how fast you move out of TL0 and how rarely these people even look at their preferences…