I've been given the following design for an error modal dialog (the rest of the page is grayed out and can't be clicked):

enter image description here

To me, instinctively, it seems redundant having two ways (close button and ok button) to do the same thing (close the dialog).

I don't see the need to have the close button.

Can you provide some more solid reasons to avoid that, or good reasons to have both if I am wrong?

  • 5
    If the background is greyed out, in modern design, arguably both buttons are redundant, and clicking on the grey area should close the dialog and continue ;)
    – Confused
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 13:23
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    @Confused You can't click the grey area if you're only using a keyboard...
    – JonW
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 13:28
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    Please, use "OK" as caption not "Ok". Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 13:34
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    @Confused It doesn't matter if a machine has a pointing device. Many people browse only using keyboard, not mouse. And a close button of some sort is a cue they can dismiss that dialog, and the impact of that. A 'close' button has a different cognitive meaning to 'OK' even if they do the same thing here, but 'Esc' is more of a backwards action than an acceptance / intentional action / decision.
    – JonW
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:08
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    Sometimes (not always) the GUI framework makes it hard to get rid of that X... It comes for "free" with some frameworks as part of the core dialog
    – Baronz
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:38

3 Answers 3


The "OK" button has the wrong word.

It should be a "Continue" button, as this is what's required of the user. The user is being asked to acknowledge they're aware of the nature of the warning, and that they'll be continuing without a current reload/refresh of the data.

It is not OK that the data didn't load, so there's a needless cognitive dissonance created by the use of the word Ok.

The user is being asked to act, it's not a scrolled warning, it's an annoying popup dialog, and they're going to not want to have to think about it or otherwise feel any conflict or uncertainty about the outcome of their action. Therefore the simplest and most mentally accurate model for the button (and dialog between user and app) is to agree to continue.

There is no need for a close button. It does confuse the issue, and is pointless.

// Apparently the system is not able to permit the user to forcefully attempt another refresh, which is the other logical button to put here.

  • While I see no harm in adding a close button because of familiarity (and sorry, but this is not very technical, anyone using a browser for a few months has been exposed to this many times) , I completely agree withthe rest of the answer, I find more issues with the OK word than the close button.
    – Devin
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 15:25
  • Thanks, very useful answer. I think I'll remove the close button and change "OK" to something more meaningful. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 15:28
  • "retry" may be a useful action to offer. Closing would then mean "nah, I'm good", whereas retry means "got it, but I still want that to work"
    – stefan
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 22:39
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    I don't agree with this answer. Continue strongly implies to me that I'm going to be navigated away (i.e. continue to another page). Even an OK button still has some implication that I may be navigated away, with the absence of a close button. The presence of the X, even if redundant, gives me assurance that my action is only closing the dialog. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 23:51
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    @CollinDauphinee I think the choice of the button text can only be done with full knowledge of the application, in fact I'm not going to use "Continue". I accepted the answer because it made me think on the difference between using a close button versus an "OK" button and on the opportunity of changing the button label to make it more meaningful based on the context. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 9:21

As a general principle what you want to achieve is clear, easy, self-explaining, etc... ways for your users to interact with your application.

In this type of modal an "OK" or "Close" modal would be pretty equivalent since they don't have to make a decision about something, it's just an short and simple informative message about something that has already happened, at the end they will want just to dismiss.
Is this button enough? Yes, it is.

The X is not mandatory, but the deal here is that it's also a standard that means that also fulfills the goal of "dismiss/get me out of here" and some users will be willing to use it because everyone has already use it at sometime. Considering that it does not produce any significant harm to the design, there's not a strong reason to remove it.

If being redundant gives users more choices, familiarity and flexibility of interaction with minimum or no harm, there´s no a big reason to avoid it.

Additionally (and again, considering the informative purpose of this modal) you could offer [Enter] as a OK shortcut and [Esc] as a X/close one.

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    Won't a user be wondering what's the difference between the two and what should he click? Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:14
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    Not in this case, since both actions are soooooo familiar and simple, plus it's an informative message as I've mentioned. A different case would be a modal where the user has to take actions, then you would like to place the most concrete and minimal actions posible, to make their decision process easier. This kind of modal is the one that the user will just want to get out of his/her face as fast as possible, so giving them familiar ways to do this is alright. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:18
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    Andrea is right. These are contradictory messages. This type of thing might be familiar within a technical audience, as they're accustomed to other technical people making programmer art and batshit insane UI and UX decisions, just like the one Andrea is asking about. For a non-technical audience, there are two uncertain options here. Neither is clear, and the ramifications of either choice are uncertain. That's not what should happen for something pertaining to a failure to refresh or reload data.
    – Confused
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:30
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    Again, it's just a very simple and short message with a declarative statement about a past event. The user is not asked to perform any action that will change the state of something and both interacts are standard for users in this particular modal message. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:35
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    Again, simple and short and clear to you, and those similarly educated and experienced. You don't represent all people and there is uncertainty here. There doesn't need to be.
    – Confused
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 14:44

Redundancy and duplication is not always a bad thing. The X close icon in the modal is something you see everywhere in software so its meaning is very well known for a very long time (think Microsoft Windows operating system panels and Microsoft apps like MS Office).

A command button with a label is often more explicit than an icon, but the choice of label is critical. OK as a label is generally considered to be ambiguous but in this situation the command button is simply going to close the modal, so will duplicate the functionality of the X close icon.

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