I recently had a talk with person that was doing sort of QA for my app. There was one topic we strongly disagreed on. He basically said "don't throw user a pop-up in his/her face if he/she has no option of doing anything, example 'OK' modals".

As an example (please disregard if it's neat to use system-looking message box): enter image description here

How I explain those modals is that there are certain information that I want to make sure user noticed.

He said that it could be written somewhere without "throwing it into user's face". Well, I didn't make the experiment but I think on the screen below, I could write "We must also check which, by the way you are full of shit components are already installed". And I can bet $50 that he (and most average users) wouldn't even notice that. That's because what I see is that users don't read even short messages (not to mention the long ones). They just look for next button to press.

enter image description here

I just don't want to finish action that was taking some time to complete and remove this "progress" screen without any notification whatsoever. Also I think that Windows already prepared average users to the "OK" pop-ups so that they won't be confused like "what am I OKeying?"

2 Answers 2


Where your friend is 'wrong'

I think that anyone who universally rules out a particular solution without considering the context is missing an opportunity.

UX is about tailoring solutions to the problem at hand, and the problems are never the same.

Where such modals are 'right'

Modal dialogs are annoying, and do pose a barrier in the user's attempt to complete a task. But so are security checks at airports.

Sometimes you do want to grab the user attention, and you do want to make sure that no-matter-what, users can't progress without paying attention for some informative message. In such cases a confirmation modal dialog is justified. (And one must remember that once the user has performed an action, she might be distracted, like by a crying baby, and will only come back to the system after 10 minutes, completely oblivious to where she has left it.)

I can give one example, which I think most people will find justified:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Where your friend is 'right'

But your friend does have a good point that it is often possible to provide some alternative action in response to such message: If changes weren't saved, can you offer a 'Retry' option?

Outside modals

If one stops thinking about the actual realisation of things (modal dialog) and go a level up to user journeys, then there are actually a multitude of examples for such informative messages that leave the users with little options as what to do next. Perhaps the best example for this is the 404 screen:

A 404 screen with no action possible

But that in itself is an example of how you could actually add some actions that would make sense:

Github's 404 screen, with many additional navigation options

The same example can be given for confirmation pages of newsletter unsubscribe confirmation.


I would recommend more of a 'notification' system than a popup. By notification I mean something that shows up, but does not block the user from what he/she is/was trying to do. A good idea for a notification would be to darken the program, and brighten the notification so the user sees it, but is not fully entitled to click something. Try putting the notification away from the centre of the screen to minimize distraction further.

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