Inline message

Purpose

A inline message is a small pop-up panel shown at top of the current form that informs users of a non-critical problem or special condition. The panel shows information on four levels indicated by different colors and icons, and provides standard action that users might want to initiate.

Different levels of inline messages.

The four different levels of inline messages.

Examples

An inline message is used for feeback after an upload has been completed.

Guidelines

  • Use inline messages in cases of non-critical problems that user can solve.
    • Use negative feedback (aka error) as a secondary indicator of failure, e.g. if a transaction was not completed successfully
    • Show the information on a warning level in case of relevant information that do not concern the current workflow, e.g. No Internet connection available.
    • Use positive feedback to notify about user-initiated processes, e.g. to indicate completion of background tasks
    • Use opportunistic interaction (aka notification) to acknowledge the user about options that he or she might be interested in, e.g. “Remember password?”
  • Display the information immediately.
  • When users dismiss the inline message, do not display any other UI or start any other side effect.
  • Do not add controls to the inline message other than action buttons for opportunistic interaction.
  • Consider to show a notification if information does not concern the current workflow.

Is this the right control? / Behavior

Negative feedback

The inline message should be used as a secondary indicator of failure: the first indicator is for instance that the action the user expected to happen did not happen.

Example: User fills a form, clicks “Submit”.

  • Expected feedback: form closes
  • First indicator of failure: form stays there
  • Second indicator of failure: a inline message appears on top of the form, explaining the error condition

When used to provide negative feedback, an inline message should be placed close to its context. In the case of a form, it should appear on top of the form entries.

An inline message should get inserted in the existing layout. Space should not be reserved for it, otherwise it becomes “dead space”, ignored by the user. An inline message should also not appear as an overlay to prevent blocking access to elements the user needs to interact with to fix the failure.

When used for negative feedback, do not offer a close button. The message panel only closes when the problem it informs about (e.g. the error) is fixed.

Positive feedback

An inline message can be used for positive feedback but it shouldn’t be overused. It is often enough to provide feedback by simply showing the results of an action.

Examples of acceptable uses:

  • Confirm success of “critical” transactions
  • Indicate completion of background tasks

Example of wrong uses:

  • Indicate successful saving of a file
  • Indicate a file has been successfully removed

Opportunistic interaction

Opportunistic interaction is the situation where the application suggests to the user an action he could be interested in perform, either based on an action the user just triggered or an event which the application noticed.

Example use cases:

  • A browser can propose remembering a recently entered password
  • A music collection can propose ripping a CD which just got inserted
  • A chat application may notify the user a “special friend” just connected

Appearance

A basic inline messages consists of an icon and text. It can contain an optional close button and buttons.

Inline message with a custom icon and a close button.

Inline message with a custom icon and a close button.

Inline message with two buttons.

Inline message with two buttons.

If there is not enough space to display all the buttons, an overflow menu is shown instead.

Inline message with overflow menu.

Inline message with overflow menu.