Unfortunately I can't provide visual examples now, I hope that's not a problem.

The question is simple: we have an inbox, which displays all the private messages a user has received, nothing new so far. When the user wants to open/read one of the messages, what should happen?

  • Open the message in a modal(if so, where should it be positioned? On the side of the screen, or in the middle of it? It only counts on desktop though)
  • Open it in a new page. Obviously for this we need to create a separate page for viewing single messages.

I also thought about maybe doing both, but I'm so not sure.

I know many say modal are a "no-go" in general, but let's put that aside for now.

I've been thinking about it probably for days, but I can't make up my mind, so I'd appreciate if you helped me out a bit.

In your experience, which one do you think would be a better way of doing it?

2 Answers 2


Modal is should be more of an user-interruption when your application needs more information first to complete a task, such as "Are your sure? [delete] [cancel]", "Create new account: email, password" or to showcase a single image.

In a messaging system like email, you typically would have a at least 2 separate pages: message index (your inbox) -> message view (a single message from your inbox). In your message view you have much more space for content and actions relating to this message: reply, delete, forward etc. and show meta information, message history or whatever is most helpful in this context.

The other issue is that in some applications a click outside of a modal closes it, which will frustrate the user if they should reply to a message inside of a modal.


Don't see any reason to lose the opportunity to create a differentiated product. If you can make the modal not feel like a warning, let's say it occupies a decent portion of the screen, whereas warnings are typically smaller, you might have a nice time experimenting with a new style.... Provided the above of course, you can't click outside to close it.

If that design component is used consistently across your product as a pattern, it you might be able to pull it off, also given that it might throw people off a bit at first..

Many different mail platform offer different pane customization options too to suit the user so there is no one size fits all solution. Some people like the mail at the bottom with the list at the top

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