I am working on a flow that as part of it can ask the user to select an address but if the address is not in the system i am using a modal window to allow them add one so not to move them away from the original flow.

due to what pages are shown in the flow and a few other factors the adding of the address needs to submit and then either allow the user to use that one immediately or show the added address in the address book and highlight it. this has proved tricky and i wondered if using an iframe in the modal window would be a good option. usually i stay away from them as i know they are not idea but are there any usability or accessibility reasons to not use the iframe in the modal window?

2 Answers 2


iframes are usually discouraged because their navigation issues. they're also a bit more heavyweight than Ajax (basically it's a mini-window inside a window instead of content), so they require more memory, and load slower.

However, they enable security and distribution of responsibilities.

Navigation is not an issue at you I guess. If users don't navigate to that modal window (facebook enables people to send links of opened modal windows like galleries!) then it can be fine, depends on the two factors below.

If you're also in full-control of the application which is displayed within the iframe, usually an AJAX request is preferred.

However, if you expect the applications to have diverging responsibilities (eg. you want other sites to use the features as well, or you want the visual design and interaction models of the content of the iframe to be independent of the outer site), then iframe seems to be a better option.


  • are your users navigating to that view where the state of the iframe is important?
    • yes: forget iframes
    • no: are both applications yours?
      • yes: do you want to keep the same visual layout/interaction model on a number of sites or do you want the content to blend in?
        • yes, there'll be multiple sites using this feature, but the interaction/design should be dependent on the feature not the site using it: use iframes
        • no, it's only one site using it / interaction is dependent on the site using it / has to blend in: use AJAX instead
      • no: use iframes
  • Thanks that is helpful in this case there is an address book then if you click add it changes the content to a format to allow you to add an address then once you save the new address it returns to the address book so you can choose to use it or not. ideally the form could submit to the page so it can reload again and then we can grab the newly created address and highlight it
    – Lee
    Sep 12, 2012 at 8:13
  • So the problem that causes you to think of a popup is that the "adding an address" UI looks different?
    – adrianh
    Sep 13, 2012 at 10:43

but if the address is not in the system i am using a modal window to allow them add one so not to move them away from the original flow

Just to be devil's advocate for a minute...

Why? What advantages does it give? What problems has the got with adding an address inline with the rest of their actions? What evidence do you have that a modal window helps?

I can, for example, do an amazon checkout that includes adding a new address without having to deal with modal windows. What makes them a good solution for your context?

  • my reasoning is that they are in a step process to do something else. as part of this they can if they wish add an address. as the current process is in step 3 for example i have used a modal window to all them to add the address return to the screen and continue. does this sound reasonable?
    – Lee
    Sep 12, 2012 at 22:45
  • So the reason for the modal is that the add address sequence looks different from the flow that they're in?
    – adrianh
    Sep 14, 2012 at 7:13
  • it is not different but it is an optional step. While the flow has say 5 steps the address part is part of step 2 but only if they need to as they might already have an address stored and they wont need to add a new one.
    – Lee
    Sep 15, 2012 at 0:56
  • So - why pop out? Does it matter to that particular user that they need to add an address? Is it a different flow to them? Could it be inlined into their existing process?
    – adrianh
    Sep 15, 2012 at 10:59
  • it is a technical problem that it needs to be separate and not part of the same page. to make it part of the same page would make the page more complicated as well. having it separate allows the user to move away from the flow and complete the small task then continue on the flow. Thanks for the questions it really does help to think about it in a different way.
    – Lee
    Sep 16, 2012 at 21:39

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