I'm working on a responsive website for a big organisation that provides complex products that you need to subscribe to.

Subscribing typically means filling a long form of 5 or more steps. Some steps would require A LOT of explanations for some users, however we can't reasonably fit this much text into the form's page.

As a result, I think there should be a link to a page with detailed info. We can't open that page within the same window otherwise the person would have to fill in the form again from the beginning when they go back (technical constraint).

I see 2 options:

  • Either we put a link to a page that opens in a new window
  • Or we open that content in a modal window (there will be scrolling)

None of these options seem accessible and elegant.

What do you think? Is one of them better? Do you have any other idea?

Please note that I only have power over a small part of these forms.

  • Are you able to summarize the explanation into concise instructions/help? Preferably you want to keep the explanation tool (tooltip, pop-up) on the same page as the form to not interrupt the user's flow. If none if this is possible I'd advise you to check with developers and business. This kind of thing affects your conversion, which makes it very relevant for the people who end up deciding what you will do and what will be made possible. Jan 23, 2018 at 9:23
  • @Wanda We thought we could summarise an explanations but user tests have shown that it's so complex that people don't understand, or worse they misunderstand (but think they did understand). Jan 23, 2018 at 9:37
  • Hmmm... sounds like the whole process of subscribing needs to be looked at; users not understanding a subscription form is killing. I understand there's not much you can do about that aspect, but it might be worthwhile to check how the form conversion rates are now and which steps are causing issues. If user tests show that people don't understand something that should be simple (like subscribing), then the business is shooting themselves in the foot. If applicable: You could start by separating each form field into a separate step and put any conditionals (if X applies to you) into choices. Jan 23, 2018 at 11:24
  • A complex product doesn't have to be presented as complex to the one who's going to use it or sign up for it. Though getting it to feel/work that way is of course the biggest challenge. Jan 23, 2018 at 11:28
  • What's complex isn't so much the form, it's the topic. To give you an idea it's about a certain type of insurance for which you have to choose certain parameters. Making people understand that product is a challenge whether you're explaining on an interface or even orally. That's why it requires a long page of explanations with some examples. We've also convinced our client that a video would be a good idea to explain the concept in an easy-to-digest way. We're gonna do that too but we still need to have that page of explanations. The video, as I see it, is a bonus. Jan 23, 2018 at 13:35

1 Answer 1


From what you've explained a modal seems like an excellent idea.

Use Case: As a person filling out the form I would like additional information regarding a field.

A modal seems perfect.

User is confused about what to do with a field (or field group). User sees that he can get more information, selects it and a modal appears with the relevant information. Relevant information is important. It ought not be a data dump.

In addition it's possible to pass information from the modal to the form "below." So if, once in a while, things are truly complicated and intense, the selection can be made in the modal.

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