A set of recommendations on how to use ellipsis designing interfaces.
The ellipsis is a text convention borrowed from editorial design to digital interfaces. Commonly represented with a set of three dots. It communicates the idea that there is more content that isn’t shown or there is something more to be done.
This subtle interaction detail helps users to unconsciously anticipate the action of the system in order to achieve more considerate products.
Use ellipsis to communicate that there are further options that can’t be shown. Often we see this solution to solve narrow spaces or responsive interfaces.
Use ellipsis when there is not enough space to show a complete text. You can truncate long texts in the middle or at the end to avoid overlapping. Choose the option that best displays important information for your use case.
Two types of ellipsis: in the end and in the middle
Use tooltips to show the complete text using ellipsis. However, if the text is not relevant for the user or the text length exceeds a normal time to read it, do not show a tooltip.
Use ellipsis for actions or menu items when additional information is required to perform the command:
The absence of ellipsis in a command communicates that triggering said command will perform the action and have an immediate effect. As seen below on the left side, users won’t need to execute any other action as results will be shown directly after submitting their search.
It requires more input
Commands of this type need to answer specific questions such as "Move to which Folder?" before running it. This means that there is a follow-up decision that the user must confirm after triggering the command.
However, informative commands which do not require additional actions to be taken such as the Permissions command above, should not include an ellipsis. These commands only display a modal window, users don’t need to perform any other action as it is just a matter of showing permissions.
If, for example, the command Permissions contains a verb like Change, it should include an ellipsis as it means users will need to perform an additional action after clicking on it.
It requires confirmation
In this case, ellipsis also serves as a hint to let users know that the action will not happen immediately. Before taking any risky decision, for example, complete elimination of information, an alert will warn or inform the user with a confirmation modal or proposing an alternative action.
Although it is seldom used, ellipsis can be applied to indicate that the system is busy working on a heavy task and there is a period of waiting time during which the action is being performed.
In addition, horizontal ellipsis can be shown in conversational interfaces to represent activity.