Help users toGet more details

Also known as: contextual help

Small overlays containing help content for complex interactions.

An example of an interaction that shows contextual help

When to use this pattern

Only use contextual help to explain things like business processes. It shouldn't be relied upon to solve design problems - services should always be simple and intuitive. See the GOV.UK Service Standard. Contextual help is more suited to complex internal services.

How it works

Help should be easy to close, move and minimise until the user needs it.

If contextual help doesn’t answer a user’s question, links to more comprehensive help should be easy to find. GDS has guidance for help content .

Services using this pattern

  • Digital applications platform
  • Entity search


Users find side-by-side guidance more helpful and easier to use. Small overlay windows offer the smallest interference with the user flow. This is a good article on contextual help from Nielsen Norman.


If your service uses this pattern, let us know of any insights you have on accessibility considerations.

Get in touch

If you’ve got a question or suggestion share it on the Slack channel #ho-design-system, on GitHub or email