If a user experience is a conversation, a dialog is like an interjection—it interrupts the current flow.

We use dialogs to provide useful information (FYI, some people call these “modals”). For example, dialogs can:

  • Give a more detailed explanation or definition
  • Guide the user through a series of steps
  • Ask the user to make a choice
  • Confirm that an action took place

In short, dialogs allow us to show different levels of information. If a design feels too complex, you can simplify the initial view and provide more detail inside a dialog.

How to use dialogs

  • Keep the text brief and factual. People tend to dismiss dialogs quickly, so get to the point.
  • Provide clear actions. Buttons work best.
  • Don’t annoy people. Dialogs are triggered by a user’s actions, so don’t show them arbitrarily.
  • Don’t hide important info in a dialog.
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Example Dialog

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Dialogs are designed to look like they’re floating above the main window. When opening the dialog, the user metaphorically takes a step backward in space. From their perspective, the main layer recedes and the dialog comes into focus. It’s important to keep the main layer in view so the user knows they can easily go back to what they were doing.

Dialog elements

Make sure to use a consistent structure for dialogs, as shown here.

Dialog heading
Short, simple, and descriptive.
Main message
Keep it brief. If the text feels wordy or confusing, people are more likely to dismiss it right away.
Prompt the user for a response, and provide a way to dismiss the dialog.

More examples

Explanation or definition


Special message

Dialog reference

Depending on what we need to communicate, we sometimes use a different dialog layout. Here are a few variations:

Left-aligned text.text-align-leftAligns the text in the dialog to the left, instead of the default centered.
Small.smallSets the dialog width to 30% of the viewport, or a minimum of 300px. Good for short, simple messages.
Large.largeSets the dialog width to 80% of the viewport, or a maximum of 800px. Useful when you have longer content (probably means to you need to take another pass at editing).
Full.fullExpands the dialog to fill the entire viewport.
Success dialog.successThe background of the header uses the success color.
Alert dialog.alertThe background of the header uses the alert color.