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Is it appropriate to have a modal window be the first thing that a user sees on load of a particular screen?

I am working on a workflow where a user can group an item they are currently working on with a collection of previously-completed items. A search to find these possibly-completed items takes place on transition out of the "item-creation" system and into the another system; if matches are found, the user is directed through my workflow. The first screen of the "other" system already has a set of actions associated with it (start a new item, retrieve a previous item, etc.). My primary considerations are:

  1. the "connect an item to previous items" workflow only affects only a subset of users.
  2. the workflow can only be initiated once the user leaves the "item-creation" system

The options I could see for where to put my workflow are either as a temporary section of the "other" screen (though that makes the screen quite long, and the user could "skip" the grouping operation), or as a modal window that appeared on load of the "other" system, which has the added benefit of directing the user toward creating that group (a strongly-desired business outcome).

Are there any strong opinions for or against presenting a user a screen with a modal window already laid over it, or are there any other alternatives?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

No, never give a user a modal view on the first visit to a page. A modal view should only be used when a user requested an action on an already loaded page. This is also true for news sites and shopping sites who keep bugging on which view to chose!

In your case, modal on user request, yes; on page load, no!

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Ideally you should only load information that the user needs to interact with. Most modals show up after a page fully renders, which can confuse the user if you are loading a webpage and then popping up a modal.

Look at this website for an example of a full-page modal on load. The modal aims to help new users, but new users don't even get a chance to see and digest the webpage before it pops up: http://www.mycme.com/

That example isn't the same workflow as yours (your users already interacted with your site before) but illustrates how an instant modal can confuse the user.

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