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I have a site that I have developed that allows visitors to submit/upload their own entries.

They fill in a form to do so, which then gets outputted onto the site.

One of the fields is a 'description' field. This is a text area of any length.

When outputting this on the site, it obviously has an effect on the design, as one entry might have 2 sentences as a description, and another 10 paragraphs.

I'm looking for the best way to make these a bit more uniform, and I am considering limiting the output of the description field to 2-3 sentences and then any more will have a link to open the full description field in a modal.

What do you think are the pro's and con's of this?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Modal is a wrong tool for your task. The con's of modal is:

  • Breaking the flow. Modal breaks the user flow as it is perceived as new interaction wich requires thinking, learning, decisions and actions. So user switches from the reading task to recognition task.
  • Invasion. Modals are frequently used as advertisement tool or some widget, which is non-relevant to users' task (new-style banners). So some users will close it without reading to continue reading task.
  • Lack of context. As the text is a part of an entry, modal breaks the whole picture, displaying text without context.
  • Cognitive load. In a modal user should find the starting point, i.e. part of text he didn't read yet. It's creates cognitive load and time loss.
  • Accessibility. Modal usage in your case isn't good from assessibility point.

Instead of modal, you could use familiar way of coping with the large amount of text:

enter image description here


When outputting this on the site, it obviously has an effect on the design

People will visit your site for content, not for design. Design which limits content isn't good.

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All good points. I did think that a modal might be pushing it and the reasoning above confirms that. I will be going the 'read more' route! Many thanks. –  shorn Dec 1 '13 at 17:29
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