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I'm working on a UI that consists of a list of items that I have received. From this list I can click on the 'pick list' which is an enhanced cart/wishlist in this application. I currently have it designed as a modal window to keep the user in context of the current items they have received and the task they are working on. Within this modal window they need the ability to add a photo and or a description. The issue of this is there is a lot of content to have in this modal window so I believe it would need yet another modal window on top of the already open modal window. Looking for any suggestions or best practices around this.

I found an example of this on Facebook. When you update profile photo, then try to add a photo it brings up two modal windows and keeps you in the context of both the original page you were on as well as the update profile modal window.

So is it better to bring the user to another dedicated page and away from the context or use multiple modal windows to maintain context?

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Without seeing the design you have in mind it's difficult to answer (and fairly subjective), however as you suggest there's already a lot of content in the original modal, I would consider moving this to a separate page and then having the 'photo/description' modal contextual to that page.

Once again, it is merely opinion and there's no linked resource to support my opinion, but I've found that whilst the intention of nested modals is to keep context, it often results in confusion during user testing - however that could vary drastically between use case and demographic!

  • Yes, it is definitely hard to explain the complexity of the UI without an image. Unfortunately, I am unable to share the designs. If it (the cart screen) is moved to another page I'm cautious as it might disrupt the users focus if they get switched to a new page. – Michelle Sep 14 '16 at 14:58
  • I absolutely agree with your concern; perhaps the best way to move forward would be to mock up both variants and do user testing to see how your demographic get on and go from there? – Matt Sep 14 '16 at 15:00
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I would definitely recommend AGAINST the two-level modal paradigm if you can avoid it... it adds a layer of ambiguity that can get ugly, in my testing.

Perhaps your modal could have "states" however... perhaps the user remains in the single modal, but that modal could have an "add details" state which slides in or something, replacing the list itself but still within the same modal window. Perhaps you could also open up a given line item accordion-style to reveal a text field and image-upload option below the line item itself, all without taking the user out of the modal.

That said, it might not be a bad idea to have a separate "wishlist/enhanced cart" screen on which the user can perform more operations, and leave that modal to be a simpler screen with fewer functions.

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