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Forms are of great interest these days in UX community, new techniques for data gathering are being suggested in line with auto-detection, predefined user data and ai. These all are really helpful options, especially on mobile. However, (Q1) I would like to know if a modal approach is a good option for "Select" input when longer lists are the only option? (Q2) What are other alternatives?

Not a fan of iPhone default select option as it is a very limiting in the number of items a user can see. Officially called "Picker" by Apple.

iPhone picker

I am starting to have an affinity towards modals to list selectable options on mobile.

For following advantages they offer: -

  • This is scalable
  • Clarity
  • Satisfies one action per page (Mobile)
  • Predictive search can be used along with this option
  • Check boxes can be used instead of radio when needed.

Attaching images for illustration

Selection with modal

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Limitations of Apple's Picker

  1. Available options are not visible until you click or tap to open it.
  2. Users can’t predict if a drop-down menu would contain 2 or 50 elements as the length of the list is hidden.
  3. Scrolling through the options is painful as the visible and scrollable area of the list is small
  4. Longer options in the picker are not fully visible to the user.

A modal approach is a good option for "Select" input especially when you have a large number of options within the Select input but, always remember to consider the number of options and the expected input before finalizing on a drop list instead of other available options like radio, checkbox, segment control, etc.

Alternative Solution

Try to use existing user data to prioritize the options and provide only list the first few most popular choices to the user along with an "Other" option. On clicking "Other", the remaining list is shown in a modal or picker. Although “Other” is not an most elegant solution, the prioritization will improve the user experience for a majority of users.

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Reference: Dropdown alternatives for better (mobile) forms

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I think you have just answered your own question here :)

In my opinion modals are good for bigger sets of data / options. One thing, be aware and try to avoid nesting modals, it means that you will not try to navigate user through group of modal windows. Modal should be a single task / action screen.

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