I have been asked to redesign some existing dialogue overlays, which have a lot of options within them. So many in fact, that they're using both vertical tabs and a scrollbar to manage the volume of options.

I am not a big fan of the vertical tabs, so I have removed those. I have also managed to reduce the number of items by hiding them unless they're needed, such as sub options not shown unless its parent is enabled.

Question is, is it ok to have a scrollbar within the dialogue ? The dialogue title, and command bar along the bottom would always be visible, but the dialogue's actual content is scrollable?

For pages, scrolling is ok as long as there is an information scent. I plan to ensure that the most used features come first. I have read that you shouldn't use scrolling or navigation within a dialogue . If you need to, another solution should be sought after like a new page. The thing is, the dialogues in question are for features like Print and Download. I think keeping them on the page would be better for this particular situation. It is something I want to test.

If anyone has any examples, research, or suggestions would be most welcome!



1 Answer 1


It is possible and used heavily in SharePoint. But SharePoint is a poor reference for User Experience, and my personal experience is to minimize the use of scrolling in lightboxes. Often you have a vertical scroll at the right side of the browser and a second scroll inside the lightbox. That is never good, since the user get confused where they are currently scrolling.

Your Options

  1. One option is to loose the lightbox alltogether and use a dashboard page instead. To do that you need to find the reason to why the lightbox was implemented in the first place, and convince stakeholders that it has grown out of proportions. It is not unlikely that they implemented a lightbox just because "everyone else uses it, and its very trendy". That might be the answer you get from Marketing, but stick to your point and lose the lightbox if you can.

  2. A second option is to divide the content into less densed units making each and every one of them fit inside one lightbox. That would mean several lightboxes, but it could be one way if the content is possible to divide in meaningful and clear entities.

  • 1
    Thank you, Benny! I'm not sure it would work like a dashboard. If you take Microsoft Word as an example, if you click Print a dialog window appears. In essence, this is the same situation. There are a lot of options for say print. I don't want to layer dialoguess on top of each other though.
    – Sujeet
    Mar 1, 2013 at 9:04
  • 1
    'That is never good, since the user get confused where they are currently scrolling.' is the perfect summary.
    – JonW
    Mar 1, 2013 at 9:05
  • @Sujeet You're welcome! If we take the "print" in Microsoft Office as an example, you could divide options into difference lightboxes. One link to "print", another link to "printer setting", a third link to "print layout". No scrolling inside lightboxes, but several lightbox links from the page. Mar 1, 2013 at 9:13

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