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7:11 Use 'Glosses' to Assist Navigation

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7:11 Use 'Glosses' to Assist Navigation

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 1 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 2 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline




Provide glosses to help users select correct links.


'Glosses' are short phrases of information that pop up when a user places his or her mouse pointer over a link. A 'gloss' provides a preview of the type of information that will be found behind a link. Users prefer the preview information to be located close to the link, but not placed such that it gets in the way of reading the link. A gloss can be created by defining the Title attribute for a link. However, designers should not rely on the 'gloss' to compensate for poorly labeled links.


  • Evans, M. (1998). Web Design: An Empiricist’s Guide. Unpublished master’s thesis. Seattle: University of Washington. Retrieved May 2003, from
  • Farkas, D.K. & Farkas, J.B. (2000). Guidelines for designing web navigation. Technical Communication, 47(3), 341-358.
  • Zellweger, P.T., Regli, S.H., Mackinlay, J.D., & Chang, B-W. (2000). The impact of fluid documents on reading and browsing: An observational study. Proceedings of CHI 2000, 249-256.

Good Example:

When a user places his or her mouse pointer over one of these links ('Food', 'Drugs', 'Medical Devices', etc.), a 'gloss' appears to the right that provides information about the content contained under that particular link.


When a user places his or her mouse pointer over the 'Form W-9' link, a 'gloss' appears below and to the right of the link, showing the full name of the form to help users verify whether this is the form they want.


Related Resources:

Related Usability Guidelines: