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Modal

Modals focus the user’s attention exclusively on one task or piece of information via a window that sits on top of the page content.

Overview

Modals are a variant of dialog used to present critical information or request user input needed to complete a user’s workflow. Modals interrupt a user’s workflow by design. When active, a user is blocked from the on-page content and cannot return to their previous workflow until the modal task is completed or the user dismisses the modal. While effective when used correctly, modals should be used sparingly to limit disruption to the user.

Modal dialogs are commonly used for short and non-frequent tasks, such as editing or management tasks. If a user needs to repeatably preform a task, consider making the task do-able from the main page.

When to use

Require an immediate response from the user

Use a dialog to request information that is preventing the system from continuing a user-initiated process.

Notify the user of urgent information

Use a modal dialog to notify the user of urgent information concerning their current work. Modal dialogs are commonly used to report system errors or convey a consequence of a user’s action.

Confirm a user decision

Use a modal dialog to confirm user decisions. Clearly describe the action being confirmed and explain any potential consequences that it may cause. Both the title and the button should reflect the action that will occur. If the action is destructive or irreversible then use a transactional danger modal.

Variants

VariantUsage
PassivePresents information the user needs to be aware of concerning their current workflow. Contains no actions for the user to take.
TransactionalRequires an action to be taken in order for the modal to be completed and closed. Contains a cancel and primary action buttons.
DangerA specific variant of transactional modal used for destructive or irreversible actions.
AcknowledgmentSystem requires an acknowledgement of the information from the user. Contains only a single button, commonly “OK”.
ProgressRequires several steps to be completed before it can be closed. Contains a cancel, previous, and next/completion buttons.

Live demo

ModalWrapper
Modifiers
size

Formatting

Anatomy

Modal anatomy diagram

The modal is composed of three distinct zones: A header, the body, and a footer. Components (eg. data table, form, progress indicator) can occupy the full width of the modal.

  1. Header: Includes a title, optional label, and the close icon.

  2. Body: Contains the information and/or controls needed to complete the modal’s task. It can include message text and components.

  3. Footer: Contains the main actions needed to complete or cancel the dialog task. Button groupings change based on modal variant.

  4. x: The close x icon will close the dialog without submitting any data.

  5. Overlay: Screen overlay that obscures the on-page content.

Sizing

There are four responsive modal sizes: xs, small, default, large. Choose a size that works best for the amount of modal content you have. Modals with short messages should use a xs or small modal to avoid long single lines; for complex components, like data table the default or large modal will be more accommodating.

Modal sizes

Max heights

Each modal size has a max height in order to maintain a proper window ratio. If your modal has too much scrolling due to a max height consider using the next modal size up. If the large modal height is still not enough space then this is an indicator that a full page may be needed instead.

Modal max heights

Alignment

Inside of a modal, body copy, including titles, have a 20% margin-right. However, form inputs and other components expand the full width of a modal window.

Modal alignment

Content

Main elements

Title

  • The title should be brief, using a verb plus noun combination that clearly describes the dialog’s task or purpose.
  • You can use an optional label above the title to set the context for the information in the dialog.

Body copy

  • A modal should include only content relevant to completing the current task.
  • Text should only be 80% of the modal’s width and components can span 100% of the width.

Footer

  • Use descriptive words for the actions such as Add, Delete, and Save. Avoid vague words like Done or OK. For a list of approved action labels, see Carbon’s content guidelines.
  • If you need to include a “docs” or other non-primary action, include it as a link in the modal’s body.

Overflow content

When the modal content is longer than the modal height then the body section should scroll vertically with the header and footer remaining fixed in place. The content should visibly fade at the end of the modal body area to indicate there is additional content out of view.

Modal content should never scroll horizontally; instead, use a larger size modal.

Overflow content example

Title as message

For short, direct messages the title can include the whole message to add visual clarity to an otherwise repetitive title and body message. When using this style, no other body copy may be included.

Title as message example

Further guidance

For further content guidance, see Carbon’s content guidelines.

Behaviors

Trigger

Modals are triggered as a result of a user’s action and are not system generated. Common components that can trigger a modal include, button, link, or icon. On a keyboard, selecting Enter or Space should launch the modal.

Focus

Once the modal is open, set the initial focus to the first location that accepts user input. For example, if the modal contains a form then the focus should automatically be set to the first field when opened. If it is a transactional modal without form inputs in the body section then the first focus should be on the primary button.

Focus should then remain trapped in the dialog until it is closed. When navigating by keyboard, Tab and Shift-Tab do not move the focus outside of the modal.

Modal focus example

Loading

The task completion action should take place immediately. If a longer loading period is needed then a loading spinner and overlay should appear on top of the modal body area with content disabled. The primary action button should be disabled while loading is in progress.

If a quick loading period is needed then use a inline loading behavior on the primary button to indicate the data is being processed.

Modal loading options

Validation

Validate a user’s entries before the modal is closed. If any entry is invalid then the modal should remain open with the entry marked in an error state and include an inline error message. The message should inform the user what has happened and provide guidance on next steps or possible resolutions. Effective and immediate error messaging can help the user to understand the problem and how to fix it.

When possible, we recommend validating the user’s data before submission. This kind of inline validation (aka client-side validation) should happen as soon as the field loses focus. This will help easily identify the elements that need to be corrected. On field error messages should disappear when the form criteria is met. If the data was not able to be submitted due to server-side issues then an inline notification should appear.

Validation example

Passive modal

Passive modals presents information the user needs to be aware of concerning their current workflow. It contains no actions for the user to take and should not include any data that needs to be submitted. They serve as a type of notification alerting the user to urgent information such as reporting system errors or conveying a consequence of a user’s action.

Dismissing a passive modal

Passive modals are persistent until dismissed in one of the following ways.

  • x: Clicking the close x icon in the upper right will close the modal without submitting any data and return the user to its previous context.
  • Click elsewhere: Clicking outside the passive modal area will automatically close the modal.
  • Esc: Press ESC on the keyboard
Passive modal example

Transactional modal

Transactional modals are used to validate user decisions or to gain secondary confirmation from the user. Transactional modals require an action to be taken in order for the modal to be completed and closed. It contains a cancel and primary action buttons.

Dismissing a transactional modal

Transactional modals are persistent until dismissed in one of the following ways.

  • Task completion: clicking the primary action will complete the task and automatically close the modal.
  • Cancel button: clicking the cancel button will close the modal and return the user to its previous context. Cancel undoes all applied changes.
  • x: Clicking the close x icon in the upper right will close the modal without submitting any data and return the user to its previous context.
  • Esc: Press ESC on the keyboard.

Two buttons

When using two buttons, the secondary button is on the left and the primary button is placed on the right. Each button spans 50% of the dialog and are full bleed to the edge.

Two button modal example

Three buttons

In the rare case where three buttons are needed, each is 25% of the dialog width and aligned to the right side of the modal. Only the outmost right button is allowed to be a primary button with the other two being secondary buttons. If all three actions have the same weight then all three should be secondary buttons.

Three button modal example

Danger modal

Danger modal is a specific kind of transactional modal used for destructive or irreversible actions. In danger modal, the primary button is replaced by a danger button. They are commonly used in high impact moments as a confirmation for an action that would result in a significant data loss if done accidentally.

danger modal

Acknowledgment modal

Acknowledgment modals are used when the system requires the user to acknowledge the presented information. It contains only a single button, commonly “OK”.  Acknowledgment is confirmed when the user clicks the primary button.

Dismissing an acknowledgment modal

Acknowledgment modals are persistent until dismissed in one of the following ways.

  • Task completion: Clicking the primary action will complete the task and automatically close the modal.
  • x: Clicking the close x icon in the upper right will close the modal without submitting the user’s acknowledgement and return the user to the previous context.
  • Esc: Press ESC on the keyboard.

Single button

Single buttons are placed on the right side, span 50% of the modal, and bleed to the edge. In most scenarios, a primary button is used when one button is needed.

One button modal example

Progress modal

For longer tasks, use a progress modal to give the user a sense of completion and orientation within the focused flow. For complex flows with complex choices, consider using a full page instead of a modal. A progress modal is not a solution for excess modal content. It should only be used to present information in more consumable and focused chunks.

Dismissing a progress modal

Transactional modals are persistent until dismissed in one of the following ways.

  • Task completion: Clicking the primary action will complete the task and automatically close the modal.
  • Cancel button: Clicking the Cancel button will close the modal and return the user to its previous context. Cancel undoes all applied changes.
  • x: Clicking the close x icon in the upper right will close the modal without submitting any data and return the user to its previous context.
  • Esc: Press ESC on the keyboard.

Button group

There are three buttons in the progress modal footer: Cancel, Previous, Next. Each button’s width is 25% of the dialog window and are full bleed. Previous and Next are grouped together and placed on the right half of the dialog, with Previous as a secondary button and Next as a primary button. In the last step of the sequence, the Next button label should change to reflect the final action. The Cancel button is aligned to left side of the dialog and uses a ghost button.