Hotspots vs Tooltips: how to use them to max effect

Volodymyr Bilyk
5 min readMar 23, 2020


Cohesion and clarity are critical factors of keeping users involved with the webpage. In one way or another, these factors smooth the user experience by explaining things or providing additional information.

Of all modern tools that deliver both cohesion and clarity, the most impactful are hotspots and tooltips.

In this article, we will talk about:

  • How hotspots and tooltips improve user experience;
  • Explain the differences between the two;
  • Describe the best use cases and examples of implementing hotspots on the page.

How Hotspots and Tooltips improve UX?

Smooth user experience is one of the top priorities for any website. Otherwise, why bother?

Among numerous visual elements that smoothen user interface and make it engaging, hotspots and tooltips have the most potential in expanding accessibility and appeal of the content presentation.

Here’s why.

Hotspot augments an image with interactive spots that contain contextually relevant information. For example, highlighting different spots on the maps and showing some statistical information. The other good example is adding links to different products on the same image.

Aside from a purely informative role, hotspots can be used to drive user conversions with an engaging microcopy.

On the other hand, the Tooltip extension shows information regarding selected elements in a small container on top of all other content when the pointer is at the spot. For example, to describe the purpose of the particular button.

As you can see, both approaches revolve around showing additional information. The difference is in the way they make UI more accessible and usable:

  • The purpose of Hotspots is to balance space and expand the content. You can pack a lot of information behind the spots on the image. At the same time, the presentation will remain balanced and free from clutter.
  • On the other hand, a tooltip is predominantly a background assisting tool. Its primary goal is to explain some aspects of the interface or webpage without being overbearing.

These days hotspot and tooltip are used in combination. Usually, hotspots apply tooltip hover-and-show methodology to keep screen space from the clutter.

How to use hotspots and tooltips on your website?

1. Hotspots for product cards

Product presentation is one of the biggest challenges of the eCommerce marketplaces. How to make the product more appealing to the user? How to present the value of the product in an engaging/involving manner?

One of the solutions is by implementing hotspots to the product images.

Here’s why it works:

  • No clutter from stacking too much information on the page.
  • Key spots on the image gather all the necessary information, instead of dropping a wall of text.
  • Better engagement because of the interactive elements. Unlike putting all out straight that might result in the user’s quick scan and bounce — hotspots work well as an explorative tool.

2. Tooltips for product feed

The product feed is the other great place for implementing tooltips in the marketplace. The standard feed often looks like a bunch of stuff thrown together. The user needs to go to the product card to see the details. That might be too much.

Because of that, a bit of interactivity would be really helpful.

Tooltips at keeping important information at arm’s length. In the context of the eCommerce marketplace, this results in the shopper being able to consider a product from the get-go.

This can be anything ranging from a “new product” disclaimer to some sort of insight into the product specs (for example, storage space of hard disk drive).

3. Hotspots for product bundles

Versatility is one of the reasons why hotspots work so well in eCommerce. Aside from product feature showcase — you can also represent product bundles with hotspots serving as a link to the page of the particular product.

There are three ways to arrange hotspot bundles:

  1. Combinations of products, i.e., “shop the look” approach. In this case, there is one hotspot that includes information about all the products on the image. The list is organized as a series of links to the product cards.
  2. Product ranges. In this case, the image depicts one product or type of product sorted by some attribute. Works well with product types that have distinct variations like size, color, length.
  3. Cross-selling — the user clicks on one product and gets suggestions via hotspots about related products (similarly to “people also buy” items).

Hotspot bundling functions like a streamlined image grid. Except instead of the grid, you get one image with multiple interactive elements.

Hotspot product bundles take much less page space. Also, it paves the way to make a whole page around a particular set of products grouped by theme or other attributes (for example, a set of Christmas gifts or birthday presents).

4. Tooltips for user onboarding and product tour

The first time on the service is often a “make or break” moment for the user. Each website has got its intricacies of the user interface.

Some users get the gist of it from the get-go. However, the majority of users need a helping hand to get accustomed to the interface scheme. Enter tooltip onboarding.

Tooltip “hover and show” mechanics works well as a walkthrough guide over principal elements of the layout. With its help you can explain the purpose of every element of the interface. In addition, you can describe how to perform certain actions step by step.

The other way to implement tooltip into product onboarding are knowledge base tutorials. In this case, you can make a tutorial piece more visual. In fact, tooltip can completely overhaul the learning section as a sequence of commented images.

5. Hotspots for infographics

Charts and infographics are a good way of explaining complex things in figures and facts. One can use specialized packages for data visualization like D3. But in the majority of the cases, one doesn’t need that much.

Instead, you can use hotspots to similar effect. Implementing hotspots to infographic images is a perfect workaround for interactive visuals when the use of a fully interactive data visualization package is not justified.

Hotspots widget handles the technical part similarly to regular hotspots. The difference is that there is a bit more tweaking with the content as you need to nail down the layout scheme to avoid clutter.

In conclusion

These are the most effective ways of implementing hotspots on your website.

As you can see, each example shows how exactly hotspots and tooltips improve user experience and make interacting with the pages much more engaging.



Volodymyr Bilyk