Success Criterion 3.3.5 (Level AAA)


Are you providing contextual assistance (tips and help) whenever part of your site or application may be hard to understand?

Why is this important

Complex or difficult to understand content that requires users to input data can be confusing for those who experience difficulties with reading, focusing, or comprehension. When labels are not sufficient to describe functionality, providing tips or context-sensitive help alongside the input fields or controls will assist users in correctly completing the task at hand without mistakes.

Whom does it benefit?

Providing context sensitive help when user input is required benefits all users but is especially important for those who experience difficulties with focus, reading and comprehension. When the help is context-sensitive, users find out how to perform an operation without losing track of what they are doing.

Example 1:

As an older person who is not comfortable using the computer,
I want additional detailed instructions available to me on how to fill out the form fields
so that I can avoid making mistakes.

Example 2:

As a person with a writing disability,
I want an explanation of the questions being asked in complex forms
so that I can complete an online form successfully (e.g. an online tax return form or an on-line job application).

What should you do?

When labels on user input fields do not provide sufficient information to the user on how to complete the field or task, additional context-sensitive help (or explanation) should be available. “Context-sensitive” means that the help information is obvious to the user and available without taking them away from the current location or process at hand.

How do you do it?

Provide context-sensitive help or instruction when labels are not sufficient to support user input on forms or complex components. Help can be provided in many ways, for example using a tooltip, a link to a pop-up modal, or simply a good explanation near the element you’re providing help for.

More examples:

  • providing text instructions at the beginning of a form (e.g. mark required fields with an asterisk or provide format for date input: mm/dd/yyyy)
  • Providing help links next to complex questions in a job application form that provides instructions and explanations for the questions
  • providing spell checking and suggestions for text input (e.g. when a user types the name of a city into the form field a dropdown menu shows the closest match to the city in the top of the menu and other suggestions below.)

Need technical guidance?

Technical guidance is available for implementing this Success Criterion at the Understanding Success Criterion 3.3.5 - Help page.