Contextual Help on Demand

The Contextual Help pattern describes methods to help users navigate the user interface and accomplish their tasks by providing examples, hints, and suggestions within the context of their application (without invoking a separate help interface).  Unlike ordinary labels and prompt text, contextual help is extra guidance focused on helping the user understand what to do next.  It is often dynamic and situational, responding to user input and disappearing when no longer needed.

There are five common forms of contextual help.


Appearance characteristics for this pattern.

Empty Section Help

Fixed Text

Page Level Message/Banner

Popup Tooltip

Hint Text


Common behaviors for this pattern.


Usage guidelines for this pattern.

Empty Section Help


Empty Data Set

Fig 1. Empty Data Set


Fixed Text

Fig 2. Fixed Text



Fig 3. Page Level Message



Fig 4. Popup Tooltip


Hint Text

Fig 5. Hint Text