Problem summary

The user needs an assistive introduction aside the interaction he is about to perform

Example

Usage

  • Use when an interaction with your website is not necessarily intuitive and self-explanatory in itself.
  • Use inline tips to document your interface
  • Use when you want to motivate the user to start using the system.
  • Use when you want to aid the user in getting started with your web application.
  • Use when you want to guide the user to get a good start with your web application.
  • Use to gently introduce functionality to the new and untrained user.
  • Use the ‘hide’ functionality to avoid frustration of the experienced and trained user.

Solution

Document your interface in-line with descriptive help blocks. If you have functionality in your software that requires interaction from your users, this functionality can be easily explained in a help box just above or below the functionality that requires the user’s interaction.

As the help box itself is not part of the main functionality, it is a good idea to add a style to it that visually separates the help box from that functionality. An easy way to do this is by applying another background and font color to the help box.

Additionally, to avoid the user’s discontent with the help box, a great feature of the in-line help box is to have a “hide this box” functionality. Once the user has clicked this link, the help box will never be shown to the user again.

However, you might want to provide an option for the user to re-enable all help boxes, to allow the user to get that first-hand help that he or she started out getting.

Rationale

By providing your user with assistive instruction aside the interaction, it is easier for the user to relate the instruction with how it applies to your web application’s functionalities than a disconnected FAQ or help section.

By allowing the user to easily close/hide each help box, the user is not bothered with unnessecary information once it has been understood.

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More examples of the Inline Help Box pattern See all 27 example screenshots

4 comments

  • 2a593447619c0807308ffc8edeefae03

    Moses Ting on Feb 02, 2008

    I’m a fan of this UI pattern and I’ve been seeing it used alot recently.

  • Cf7f577c2515a126540793f9f5da2dd0

    Janko on Mar 25, 2008

    I use this pattern frequently. In some cases I extend the message with an icon or some helpful links. Absolutely positive.

  • 7e18cac9f395f03ca5f2677125deec40

    naresh on Aug 09, 2008

    i like your website. VERY useful or web/UI designers.
    great work. expecting more examples.

    cheers!

  • D4de038a9548b1f1bb99f4f10fdffb00

    Walter on Jul 20, 2010

    It is interesting, but could you give examples on how to re-enable the help?

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