Should Links Open In New Windows?

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No, they shouldn’t. At first glance the decision to open links in new windows or not depends on the given site and the preferences of its visitors. Visitors of the sites with heavy linking are more willing to have links opened in new windows than open dozens of links in new windows manually. Visitors of less-heavy-linkage-sites are more likely to open some specific link in new window to remain on the site and continue to browse through it afterwards. However, this is not true.

Users also don’t like to deal with dozens of opened tabs and some visitors tend to quickly become angry with the disabled back-button. Furthermore, some visitors may not even realize that a new window was opened and hit the back-button mercilessly — without any result. That’s not user-friendly and that’s not a good user experience we, web designers, strive for.

Place users in control

From the usability point of view the decision to enforce opening links in new windows violates one of the fundamental principles of the user interface design: users should always be in control of the interface they are interacting with.

Leading user interface and usability researchers such as

claim that a user-friendly and effective user interface places users in control of the application they are using.

Users need to be able to rely on consistency of the user interface and know that they won’t be distracted or disrupted during the interaction. Users must know, understand and anticipate what is going on and what will happen once user interface elements are used. Any deviations from this convention result in a more design-oriented and less user-oriented design.

As Shneiderman claims5, experienced users strongly desire the sense that they are in charge of the system and that the system responds to their actions. As designers, it is our duty to design the system to make users the initiators of actions rather than the responders.

Designers are tempted to enforce users to actually use the interface or browse through the site they have created. Although the rationale behind stems from some clear commercial objectives and therefore often preferred by project managers, it is the designer’s duty to make clear to managers that users do not care.

In fact, developers often tend to forget a simple, almost elementary fact: if users want to close the application or leave a site, they will — doesn’t matter which obstacles are placed on their path to the exit-button. The more obstacles there are the more negative the user experience will be.

As designers, it is our decision to provide users with a clear, unambiguous choice, but we have no right to decide for users which choice they make.

Since users need to be placed in control of the interface they are interacting with, it is wrong to make decisions for them as designer’s decisions don’t necessary match users’ decisions. The main problem with enforcing links to open in new windows is that this decision overrules user’s decision to control the view in their browser.

Since large web-sites (Google, Amazon, AOL, Yahoo & Co.) open links in the same window (unless it is explicitly stated that links are opened in new windows), users tend to assume that the link on an unknown page will be opened in the same window. So users expect the link to be opened in the same window.

Let us now consider the following two situations where a user doesn’t know upfront if the site opens links in new windows or in the same window:

  1. user wants to open link in a new window, but the site opens links in the same window,
  2. user wants to open link in the same window, but the site opens links in new windows.

In the first situation users can choose to open a link in the new window using context-menu or shortcuts described in the next sections of this article. In this situation users are the initiators of actions as they decide how the linked page should be displayed. Here site’s behavior meets user’s expectations resulting in a good user experience.

In the second situation users would simply click on the link and suddenly find out that the link is opened in a new window. In this situation users are the responders of actions as they need to react on the way how the linked page is displayed — for instance close the windows which was opened automatically. Furthermore, here site’s behavior doesn’t meet user’s expectations resulting in a bad user experience.

Users find it annoying when the site does something without asking them to do so. If users want to open new windows let them do so and don’t indulge their intelligence by making decision for them otherwise. Don’t force a new window upon users unless there’s a very good reason to do so.

Every rule has an exception

Of course, there are exceptions: in some situations it is right to open links in new windows and wrong to open links in the same windows. Jakob Nielsen suggests6 to use new windows in case the linked document is not a .html-document. In this case he recommends to use a pop-up-windows without browser control toolbar. In such case it is reasonable to let the user know upfront how the links will be opened.

A small warning-icon usually suffices, however you need to make sure that the link is unlikely to be misunderstood. After all, it is a common practice to use icons to inform the visitors that links lead to external web-sites. An additional or similar icon may produce irritation. Small usability tests may be helpful and necessary in this situation.

Heise7
Telepolis8 lets its visitors know that a link leads to the external page. However, the icon used may be misunderstood as it can also symbolize opening links in new windows.

It is appropriate to enforce opening links in a new window in case

  • the link provides assistance or help. If you are on a shopping cart page and users click on a “help” link. In that case, users don’t want to navigate away from the cart page, so a new window is acceptable. In such cases dynamic tooltips are usually better than pop-ups which are again better than opening new windows.
  • the link may interrupt an ongoing process. For instance, if users are filling a web-form and the form provides the link to terms of service or privacy policy below the form it is reasonable to enforce this link to open in a new window to not interrupt the ongoing process. This is important in sign-up forms and crucial in checkout-forms. Otherwise users may lose the information they’ve already typed in and close the browser window in response.
  • the link leads to a non-html-document. E.g. .pdf-file, .xls-file, .mp3 and so on. Warn users in advance that a new window will appear. When using PC-native file formats such as PDF or spreadsheets, users feel like they’re interacting with a PC application. Because users are no longer browsing a website, they shouldn’t be given a browser UI. Best of all, prevent the browser from opening the document in the first place. Jakob Nielsen explains9 how it can be done.
  • the link leads to a large image which takes time to load. Opening this image in a new window allows user to focus on your content while the image is being loaded in the background.

Forgive them, for they don’t know what they do

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find any recent research findings which would provide us with a better understanding of how users actually open links if they want to open them in new tabs or windows. However, it is likely to assume that most users don’t know shortcuts and prefer more intuitive, straight solutions. More experienced users are more likely to use shortcuts which are described below as well.

There are three reasonable ways for opening links in new windows. Most users use the first option — not because it is the most effective one, but because it is the most obvious one. These options are implemented in all modern browsers; older browsers may have problems with the second and third options, though.

  1. visitors use the context-menu: users click with the right mouse on the link and select the option “Open link in a new tab/window”. If the link is opened in a new tab, the active window remains the same as it was before the click. If the link is opened in a new window, new window appears and the new window becomes the active window.
  2. visitors use the Ctrl+click-shortcut: users press the Ctrl+key and click with the left mouse button on the link. The link is automatically opened in a new tab. The active window remains the same as it was before the click. This shortcut can vary depending on the operating system and the browser implementation.
  3. visitors use the middle-click: users point the mouse pointer to the link and press the middle-click of the mouse. The link is automatically opened in a new tab. The active window remains the same as it was before the click.

The first option is definitely the most ineffective yet most popular one. It requires more clicks and more concentration, therefore more time and more cognitive load on the user. The third one is the quickest one as users don’t need to permanently switch between the context-menu and the page itself.

Open links in new tabs10
Most users seem to use the context-menu to open links in new tabs or windows. Image source11.

The main irritation from the users’ side comes from the fact that most users know only the first option. Consequently, if they want to open links in new windows they need to use the context-menu, with multiple clicks, switching the view back and forth again and again. That’s stressful and unpleasant. Still, opening links in the same window (by default) is the lesser of two evils. And if users don’t know how to do it quickly, tell them explicitly — they will be grateful for your help.

But I can force visitors to stay on my site, right?

No. Even if you enforce the external links to open in new windows users will find their way around to open the link in the same page if they want to:

  1. users can copy the link, paste it in the address bar and hit the return button; the link will be opened in the same window.
  2. users can drag the link to the address bar; the link will be opened in the same window.

Unfortunately, not every single browser allows users to do that. However, modern browsers have this functionality implemented since years. If users don’t want a link to open in a new window they’ll try to find the way to circumvent designer’s decision.

Firefox12
Firefox enables its users to decide how the links designer has decided to open in new windows should be opened.

Therefore, from the designer’s perspective, it is better to provide users with a clear and clean way to do so respecting their interests and not neglecting their time. If you want your visitors to come back, assist them, guide them, help them, but never impose on their patience and willingness to browse on your site.

Optimal solution

In our opinion the most effective and user-friendly solution is to allow users to select how the links should be opened. However, they don’t have to do that via their browser. Designers can provide users with a small check-box which “decides” how the links should be opened. You need to make sure that the checkbox is visible and users understand what it is good for.

This can be done via JavaScript. Once the box is checked all links will be opened in a new tab / window. Just check the box yourself and try it out:

Open external links in a new tab?

Source code for the check-box:

<form>
<input type="checkbox" onclick="linkopener(this.checked)" id="linksnewwin">
Open external links in a new tab?
</form>

Source code for the JavaScript (you’ll need to replace domain.com with your web-site’s URL; thus the browser will be able to distinguish between internal and external links):

<script language="javascript">

function linkopener(a) {
var b = a ? "_blank" : "_self";
var c = document.links;

for (var i=0; i < c.length; i++) {
  if (c[i].href.search("domain.com") == -1) c[i].target = b;
}

}

</script>

This JavaScript doesn't use cookies so if users browse from one side to another their preference won't be stored. If you'd like the checkbox to work throughout your site you'll have to consider using cookies to store users' preferences.

Bottom line

It is important that users are placed in control of the user interface they are using. Since users expect the link to be opened in the same window, set your links to open in the same window. Don't force a new window upon users unless there's a very good reason to do so. For the latter purpose, consider opening links in new windows if the link provides assistance or help, if it may interrupt an ongoing process or it leads to a non-html-document.

Allow users to select how the links should be opened on a given web-site. Opening links in the same windows the lesser of two evils. And if users don't know how to do it quickly, tell them explicitly — they will be grateful for your help.

Let us know!

Sources and Resources

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://faculty.washington.edu/jtenenbg/courses/360/f04/sessions/schneidermanGoldenRules.html
  2. 2 http://www.theomandel.com/docs/Mandel-GoldenRules.pdf
  3. 3 http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9605.html
  4. 4 http://www.asktog.com/basics/firstPrinciples.html
  5. 5 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/10/09/30-usability-issues-to-be-aware-of/
  6. 6 http://www.useit.com/alertbox/open_new_windows.html
  7. 7 http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/28/28190/1.html
  8. 8 http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/28/28190/1.html
  9. 9 http://www.useit.com/alertbox/open_new_windows.html
  10. 10 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/images/opening-links/tab.gif
  11. 11 http://www.scrollinondubs.com/2006/10/
  12. 12 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/images/opening-links/firefox.jpg
  13. 13 http://www.sitepoint.com/article/beware-opening-links-new-window
  14. 14 http://www.useit.com/alertbox/open_new_windows.html
  15. 15 http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/06/26/should-links-open-in-a-new-window/
  16. 16 http://www.problogdesign.com/blog-usability/new-window-for-a-new-link/
  17. 17 http://www.webnauts.net/new-window.html
  18. 18 http://gracefulflavor.net/2008/01/14/debate-should-new-links-open-in-new-tabswindows/
  19. 19 http://www.davidairey.com/should-links-open-in-a-new-window/
  20. 20 http://css-discuss.incutio.com/?action=find&find=DontOpenNewWindow
  21. 21 http://cssglobe.com/post/1281/open-external-links-in-new-window-automatically
  22. 22 http://www.456bereastreet.com/archive/200610/opening_new_windows_with_javascript_version_12/

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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

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  1. 1

    I do not agree with this post. Actually, sometimes we have to open a new/relevant info in a new window because we don’t want that the user lost the information that he/she is reading or he/she is on that page.

    E.g.

    There is a page called Benefits and there is a link called Register then I don’t think that anyone would like to redirect that user from that page to another/Registration page. I won’t do it. I don’t want that the user don’t able to see the benefit page at the same time.

    Anyways…….

    Thanks,
    Harry

    -2
  2. 202

    User should be in control.

    I’m amazed at all the folks who think all external links should automatically open in new windows.

    I am not one of those folks who doesn’t want to have multiple windows open. I have 17 Firefox windows open at the moment. How do I get them open? I choose to open them in new windows. Been using Firefox since the early days, and have never taken to tabs. Folks thinking windows should open in new tabs automatically should be punched in the eye and left to flounder aimlessly on the whitespace they so love.

    User should be in control.

    0
  3. 403

    “I have script running to open all external links within the same secondary window; thus, as long as the visitors do not kill the new window, they can view each link from the same window.”

    This is one of the most heinous conceits on all the internets.

    0
  4. 604

    If I want to open a link in the same window, I click the link.

    If I want to open a link in a new window, I shift-click the link.

    I have no doubt that I often shift-click links that would have opened in new windows. But I don’t notice that behavior.

    What i do notice is when I simply click a link (to open it in current window) and it opens in a new window. It is bothersome.

    So, the only time I even notice the code is when the new-window-cabal send me somewhere I don’t want to go.

    0
  5. 805

    “I create websites for clients who are also end-users. Why is there such a disconnect there for some of you? I prefer external links to open in new windows, as do 98% of my clients. And now there is some need for me to reconsider my decisions, especially because I’ve been doing it for so long?

    So, when you go to get your haircut and you tell the barber you just want a trim, and he shaves your head bald because he’s the expert and you’re not, you are OK with this? Oh, and the reason he did it is because that’s what he thinks other people expect you to look like? You’re OK with this?”

    You’ve got this all backwards.

    You’re the scalper in this analogy.

    You folks in the new-window-cabal are the ones making arbitrary and unwelcome decisions for the end users.

    (Of course your clients are end users. Everybody on the planet is an end user.)

    0
  6. 1006

    I disagree. I visit many websites, graphics websites, seeing I am a designer. And I personally get very annoyed/think down on the site when links don’t open in new windows.

    0
  7. 1207

    Since the web changes so quickly – I wonder if this article could be revisited? After all, it was written in 2008 and it is now 2010.

    Still sticking to the single window argument?

    (I’m an external link = “_blank” proponent myself)

    0
    • 1408

      Yes I agree with that… even 2 years after this article I’m pretty sure most of the web users don’t know the short-cuts.. therefore, except if you are visiting bad websites.. you definitely want to keep the window open.

      It’s not all about wanting to keep your visitor on the site.. but if the user has found a link on your website interesting enough to click on it, you want to offer him the capability to come back easily to your website to keep browsing.

      Nowadays, if tabs are so successful it’s because you want to have several windows opened.

      Anyway I DON’T understand how such “supposed-to-be” usability experts are so categorical about this.. do they really browse the web ?

      0
    • 1609

      Not opening new windows is just as valid today as it was back in 1998. Usability guidelines are very durable (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20050117.html).

      Everyone who thinks that there’s value to opening links in a new window, the main argument seems to be this:

      1) Users might want to open a link without leaving the current content.
      2) Users generally aren’t tech-savvy and have no idea how to open a link in a new tab/window.
      3) Opening links in a new window therefore helps users do something they might have wanted to do, but don’t know how.

      Except here’s the thing. Users know how to use the Back button. Want proof? Look at your bounce rate! What’s worse is that if a user doesn’t know how to open a link in a new tab, then users are accustom to using their back button to get back to the content they want to finish reading. Opening a new window for them actually breaks that functionality and confuses users!

      Basically, everyone who wants to open external links in a new window by default has an ego problem. They think that because I clicked on one of your links, I now value you as a trusted resource to show me what to look at on the Internet. If I like what you’re peddling, I’ll come back. If I don’t, I’ll close your tab and never look back.

      If your site has a bevvy of links that you honestly think people might want to open in different windows/tabs as references without losing your site but may not be tech-savvy enough to do, consider alternatives such as using text+icon to display a version of the link that automatically opens in a new window, signaling the user that it’s going to happen.

      0
      • 1810

        Also, as a tech-savvy Internet user, I still miss a beat when a link automatically opens in a new tab without notification and I want to go back to the originating page, only to see that my back button is grayed out. Even worse, because I browse with multiple tabs open to begin with, sometimes closing the tab doesn’t automatically signal my web browser to make the originating page the new focus, meaning that I’m left looking at some other page and have to sift through my open ones to get back to yours.

        Bottom line, you aren’t being helpful. You’re being irresponsible. You are creating confusion, even if momentary. Stop thinking too hard about making my life easier. Everyone who uses the web already has their way of dealing with default behaviors, such as link destinations staying in the current window/tab. Why make me think of a new way to use your site? I really can’t think of a good excuse, other than an over-inflated ego.

        0
  8. 2011

    Users could be in control IF THEY KNOW what controls they have, but most don’t even know their own mouse has a center button. No wonder why the big social networks put external links to open in new windows (and yes, they do make studies about how users work their interfaces).
    So called usability experts always talk about “conventions”, well, i think this is a convention in the real world for non-computer-friendly users.

    0
  9. 2212

    Hi, i have been reading the article and most comments. What i use on my blog affiliationcharme.com is opening external links in blank.

    Why ?

    Because when you provide lot of links and informations, you want the user to be able to check the other pages and sites and then go back to information source easily.

    For savvy users, opening all links in the same window is a curse. Personally, i hate when sites do that, because it often makes me lose the original site with the informations i wanted first.

    And you can expect me to browse with more than 60 tabs opened at the same time, keeping them for further consultation.

    And by the way on last generation browsers, blank means new tabs, not new windows. So most users are not bothered by this at all.

    -3
  10. 2413

    I suspect that there are more users who don’t know how to open a page in a new tab/window than those who do.

    I just want to see DATA that tells me what most users do so I can make good decisions based on fact and not a few people’s personal preferences.

    I personally like windows to open in a new tab, but I understand not everyone is like me.

    DATA DATA DATA = Ability to make good decisions

    0
  11. 2614

    I’m torn.

    As a developer I go to all the pain of creating wonderful breadcrumb trails so the user always knows where they are, only to have that ‘ruined’ because someone has clicked on an external link and suddenly they are thrown off somewhere that has no concept of my client site, let along a breadcrumbed route back.

    Are we seriously saying the average user is not knowledgeable enough to understand tabs but is knowledgeable enough to work out back to the article he was reading several clicks ago and several sites ago?

    Without doubt as a user I prefer external links opening in new tabs. I find them intuitive and also less interrupting to the flow of my journey. I click as I go, sometimes I flick to the tab, read it and close it, sometimes I let them stack up while i carry on and then read them all in turn when I’ve finished on the site I am on.

    This whole linking to the _self feels like one of those bits of research done years ago, particularly before tabbed browsing arrived and has just become folklaw since then based on no new research being done.

    Just my opinion but I think times and practices move on. If they didn’t and everyone looked to the past there would be no innovation. I bet best practice a few years back would never had said forcing the user to only ever enter 160 characters to get their message across was a good idea.

    0
  12. 2815

    Havent we seen a fundamental transformation of the web from ‘surfing’ from link to link, accessing static resources, to full blown applications? The web is an operating system, and last time I checked, ‘multitasking’ is a pretty much indespensible part of any operating system. To say that the typical users experience with the web *should* be a single threaded clickstream, preserving history with ‘back buttons’ totally ignores the reality that I dont want my Mail application to go away when it takes me to my Photo manager, nor do I want my Photo manager to be ‘buried somewhere in my back button stack’ when I switch over to my social networking application to share that photo with my friends. And, oh, thats right, I want to print this photo out and have it sent to my grandma.. ahh.. theres a link to an web app service that will do that right here in the photo app. But I want to see if I can get the same thing for cheaper, so I run a search in my “toolbar” (really just web os built into the chrome), and expect to be able to perform my search without disrupting my photo sharing. While searching I certainly do not want my searching application to disappear while I examine a resource to see if it answers my question. etc. etc.

    What we really need is a browser that has a task oriented interface that can manage the states of our various web applications so if I get distracted from consuming news long enough to click on an advertisers offer (like they are hoping I will) I have an easy interface to return to my previous state. The back button sucks, and just because even the least savvy of users know how to use it does not mean its valueable and should be preserved.

    The back button was an adequate solution for navigating around with cello and mosaic, but isnt it time we updated our methods?

    0
  13. 3016

    I’ve been involved in professional web-dev since 1998- including design, UI, UA, and QA.

    I’ve never MET a user who prefers to be navigated away from the page they initially intended to view by clicking a link.

    I’ve never MET a user who was confused by a new browser window opening. “Oh there’s a new window displaying the link I clicked. Oh there’s also the window with the page I originally intended to browse.” Where’s the confusion?

    Not to say that these users don’t exist, I’ve just never MET one in 10+ years. Internal polling and other metrics associated with sites/projects I have worked on indicate that 75%+ of our users prefer EXTERNAL links to open in a new window. In general, people DO NOT want to be navigated away from the site they originally chose to browse.

    “Since users need to be placed in control of the interface they are interacting with, it is wrong to make decisions for them as designer’s decisions don’t necessary match users’ decisions.”
    …and it’s your site, your decision on how the user experience should play out, your creative vision, and your responsibility to provide a consistent and focused experience. I think the statement “it is wrong to make decisions for them” is misleading, purjorative, and inflammatory. Do you really think this is about developers wanting to “control” people? Is serving hot coffee in a heat resistant cup “forcing your choice” on someone? Semantically speaking, yes it is, and for a damn good reason. Should said coffee buyer be allowed to have their hot coffee served in a baseball cap just because 100% user choice is the end-all goal of everything? I think not.

    I’ve never MET a user who was “angered”or “annoyed” by a new browser window opening. The anger/annoyance claim is the biggest BS argument in my opinion. C’mon, we’re not talking about pr0n-ad popups that the user never intended to view. The only people people who think rights are somehow being violated and choice taken away are the high-horse theorists who disagree with this practice on a philosophical level. Crafting how the user experiences the content is an integral part of web design and if the designer wants to guide the user’s experience in a certain way that is certainly their prerogative. As a designer, I want to keep the user focused on the original site with all external links provided to support, not drive them away from the original site.

    In my opinion all EXTERNAL links fall into the category of “additional resources”, are not part of the original site, and therefore should be displayed in a new window.

    -2
  14. 3217

    You wrote “…don’t indulge their intelligence by making decision for them otherwise….” which insulted my intelligence!

    1
  15. 3418

    I’ve been blogging for about five years now and all my links are target=”_blank” opening in a new tab.

    Because, when I’m surfing a site, I always right click links to open in new tabs. I hate losing my place, losing my original site.

    I’ve never had a single mention of the links opening in new tabs, and I have between 300-600 regular visitors a day. Not astronomical, but surely someone would have complained by now?

    As another commenter mentioned, actual data would be nice. This post was written over two years ago. Might as well have been 10 in the tech world, right? My 80 year old mother doesn’t get tabs yet, but, hey, she now understands what the window is, what the desktop is, and what all those things are on the gray bar at the bottom. And she still reads my blog.

    1
  16. 3619

    I agree with a lot of the comments saying how it is wrong to assume the user wants to be able to stay in the same window. Some people believe that links should open in a new window while others feel that is should stay in the same window. It depends more on the personality of the user and not their experience as a user.

    On a side note I really love the fact that this article is all about staying in the same window with links but if you click on any of the ads at the top right they open in a new window. I guess that is the last exception that they failed to mention. If you give us money you can control how the user views the link.

    1
  17. 3820

    Nice use of pascal’s wager under “Why enforcing opening links in new windows is wrong”.

    0
  18. 4021

    You have two sides here:

    1. Users who want external links to open in a new window/tab.
    2. Users who want external links to open in the same window/tab.

    Your solutions:

    A. Code external links to open in a new window/tab.
    B. Code external links to open in the same tab.

    If you choose solution A, usergroup 1 is happy and usergroup 2 must go extremes (ie. copying and pasting the link) to override target.
    If you choose option B, usergroup 2 is happy and usergroup 1 can right-click to open the link the preferred way.

    With the exception of special cases (ie. web applications), I think I’d rather code my links so that it’s a minor annoyance for usergroup 1 rather than a major annoyance for usergroup 2.

    -1
  19. 4222

    Totally agree with the author.

    But adding that checkbox to the page is crazy.

    -2
  20. 4423

    What is all that about stop “keeping users on my site” and people should control everything? Shame on you people who ONLY cater for the tach-savvy. This is the same disease that prevents Linux from being mainstream.

    Face it, most people live *outside* of the computer. What that means? That means they don’t care about how the Browser or the Internet works. Do you know exactly how the TV works? Do you know how to get the best signal? How to choose a language if a channel supports multiple languages? I bet not. Just because you are tech-savvy on the subject does not mean that you can demand from a user how to open links in new tabs.

    I consider it good practice to tell the user that a link leads to an external site, and to open it in a new window/tab. If I link something external, I am showing something that has nothing to do with my site, so it has to be shown implicitly by opening a new window/tab or by an intermediate window explaining it (bad IMO!). I am not trying to keep the user on my site. I am keeping the site open (in the background since new windows/tabs take focus by default in most browsers), so that when the user decides to come back to my site, it’s right where you left, waiting for the user to either interact with it or to close it. It has nothing to do with me being “greedy” and wanting to force the users to stay on my site. I give that medal to the guys who use redirects to make the back button useless.

    0
  21. 4624

    Just because the writer of this article thinks opening links in new windows is wrong, doesn’t mean it IS wrong. It only means the writer is arrogant and pompous enough to feel the need to decide for all people who use FireFox. Feel free to ignore at will…. :-)

    2
  22. 4825

    Having some links open in new windows is not only ok, it is preferred in some cases. Saying links should never open in a new window, is not only pompous and arrogant, it’s just plain wrong.

    Sometimes, you link to .pdf files. It is a much more user friendly process to have that link open in a new window. Why? Because within that .pdf file, there is not a link back to your site. Relying on users to use the back button of your browser to return to your site is not efficient form of navigation. You will lose visitors, traffic and sales.

    Another reason to open a .pdf in a new window, is that a user may not realize they are still in a browser, as adobe acrobat viewer tends to resemble a document viewer and not a browser. And if that happens….when the user is done reading the .pdf, they may close it out completely and they have in turn closed out the entire browser, along with your site.

    Another time a new window is a better option, is if you provide a link off of your site that takes visitors to another site. You do not want to provide an easy exit for the users of your site. If a link does not open in a new window, a user may leave your site, start browsing the other site and never return to yours. If the link opens in a new window instead, then when they are done reading/browsing the other site, the user can close out that browser window and your site is still open in the background for them to return to. Other sites probably don’t have a convenient link back to your site, so why should you have to rely on users using the back button in their browser? As a web designer, that is just poor navigation.

    Other instances where links in new windows are preferred: Linking to images, or any page on your site that does not follow the site template and does not have navigation.

    With that said, new windows shouldn’t be used when linking to standard/ordinaty pages on your own site. You need a good reason to open a page in a new window…and there are a few good reasons to do so…I listed them above. But if you open all of your pages in new windows, well that’s just poor design. You don’t want a bunch of different windows of your site opening up for not good reason. That is a good way to lose visitors as well.

    2
    • 5026

      Did you even read the article, or did you just skip to ranting. He covered PDFs and images as being appropriate for new windows.

      Also, if you think that opening a new window keeps your visitors on your site… you are mistaken. Studies have proven that if a user wants to come back to your site, they will find their way back. By the same token, studies have shown that opening new windows has a negligible impact on users continuing to engage with your site.

      The only good argument I can make for opening new windows is for mobile devices (due to the slowness of going back in history).

      -2
      • 5227

        “Also, if you think that opening a new window keeps your visitors on your site… you are mistaken. Studies have proven that if a user wants to come back to your site, they will find their way back. By the same token, studies have shown that opening new windows has a negligible impact on users continuing to engage with your site.”

        Besides the PhD mentioned earlier, where can these studies be found?

        I’ve searched extensively…

        0
      • 5428

        Second that request for these “studies.”

        I’ve looked for studies on new windows/back button and user experience for some time this morning due to needing to resolve this issue and have uncovered nothing more recent than 2009.

        To say the web and browsers and user patterns have changed since 2009 would be a massive understatement.

        Consider also that the “target” attribute is valid in HTML5. So that’s some indication that users can handle external links in new new tabs.

        0
  23. 5629

    I myself prefer that any links should open in a new window/tab. I actually hate the back button, and can’t understand why would you make me click a link that opens on the same window on top of content that I am already reading and more than likely want to finish reading.

    If you don’t want the user opening 20 different windows, then the site should have less links in their content. Or possibly a list of links and their association at the end of the article. Like many books I have read have it setup.

    Many times when I open a link, its usually to give me a better understand of what I am already reading/doing. So sometimes I may read the content or come back to it. It all depends on how the author specifies that link may affect the current content.

    To sum it up I rather open a link in a new window/tab, look at the content and determine whether I should read it then or come back to it. Either way I can always go back to the site I was initially on, or to other open windows/tabs, without hitting the back button a thousand times every time I click a link.

    For example I hate when I click to follow someone on Twitter (but wanting to continue viewing there site), and it opens in the same window. So now I have to either hit back and reopen in a new window/tab. Or login to Twitter, follow the person/site, and hopefully the link on their profile takes you back (which won’t be where you were currently at) to the site, or hit the back button about 10 times.

    This opinion is totally from a users point of view as I am just beginning to get involved with blogs and websites. However I do surf the web for hours daily.

    -2
    • 5830

      Why don’t you just ctrl+click on any link you want to open in a new window instead of getting all bent out of shape about it. You have the option to open new windows whenever you want… why not use it?

      3
  24. 6031

    Related to this post, I have a coding conundrum. I run an e-store, and I want a link to open in a new window/tab (e.g. when a user clicks on a link from our general product landing page to buy a book, it opens the book’s specific page in a new window).

    However, if someone goes back to the original page and clicks on a different link, rather than opening a completely new window it opens it into the existing new window (e.g., if the user doesn’t like the book’s specific page, goes back to the general product landing page, then clicks on a different book, it will open that different book’s specific landing page in the already open rather than opening another new page).

    If you have any insight on how to code this, can you let me know? Thanks!

    -2
  25. 6232

    Honestly folks. There’s nothing wrong with opening a link to an entirely external site in a new window/tab. You give users too much credit and as designers (you call yourselves) you should KNOW that users are not smart. Most users (I’d say 95%) are not smart. If you move them away from your site before they are done there by opening an external link in the same tab/window, you take a chance at losing them.

    Really, I think designers biggest problem at times is that they neglect to remember what it’s like to know absolutely nothing (and most people know exactly that).

    It somewhat depends on the audience, but that’s your job. You’re supposed to know when to design a certain way and when not to.

    0
  26. 6433

    I own a data-driven marketing firm and two of the metrics we capture are

    1) Time spent on page
    2) Time spent on site

    By popping a new window, my metrics get bloated with inaccurate information: Did users really spend 30 minutes on this single page, or were they off browsing other websites? Moreover, I am unable to determine the actual intent of the visitor wanting to leave the site. Without accurate time information, I am unable to optimize my client’s site properly.

    -1
  27. 6634

    This is more your own personal preference than a best practice. You can make good arguments either way.

    brent

    0
  28. 6835

    What a nonsense and a waste of my time…!

    New windows and popups are not about keeping users on specific site. They are a useful browsing devices for ensuring that stupid users do not shoot themselves in a leg while they look for or acquire additional resources related to the page they are on. This includes sometimes comments or explanations, or completely new thread but is not limited to that. Sometimes a payment must be made, a reference looked up for plugging into a form, etc.

    Often the mid-paragraph reference link offers optional detail but you do not want the users to loose the spot in the article they are currently reading while they review that extra bit of info.

    One can list numerous examples when these devices are not only desirable but outright necessary (the list is longer than the article even mentioned and amongst others includes frames, overlays, hidden blocks and balloons, etc.)

    In short stupidity reigns supreme and all those self-proclaimed designers and experts spreading their “thou shalt not use” nazi propaganda should just shut up.

    Ah yes – the idiot who wrote in the post about half-way above this one stating that he was using _blank target for all of his links until he learned not to use it at all is a prime example of the kind of expertise. (To think that any one of those crackpots has the power to cancel my vote in the next election… DAMN!)

    2
    • 7036

      “New windows and popups are not about keeping users on specific site. They are a useful browsing devices for ensuring that stupid users do not shoot themselves in a leg while they look for or acquire additional resources related to the page they are on. This includes sometimes comments or explanations, or completely new thread but is not limited to that. Sometimes a payment must be made, a reference looked up for plugging into a form, etc.”

      It is obvious that you can’t write (“you do not want the users to loose the spot in the article…”), but gosh, you can’t read either?

      FTFA:
      “Don’t force a new window upon users unless there’s a very good reason to do so. For the latter purpose, consider opening links in new windows if the link provides assistance or help, if it may interrupt an ongoing process, or it leads to a non-html-document.” (emphasis mine.)

      So, the article invites you to think for yourself and use the right tool for the right situation? Wow, you’re right! That sounds exactly like Nazi propaganda! Hitler would be so proud. Web design is exactly equal to the Holocaust in its scope and importance.

      “To think that any one of those crackpots has the power to cancel my vote in the next election… DAMN!”

      At least there’s something we agree on…

      -3
  29. 7237

    I love this. because of the help i got on this page; i didn’t need to take my computer back to get a new one.

    -2
  30. 7438

    “Users also don’t like to deal with dozens of opened tabs and some visitors tend to quickly become angry with the disabled back-button.”

    Who are these users? They need to be trained in how to use a browser. It is much easier to manage multiple tabs than using the back button.

    0
  31. 7639

    Disagree, opening pages,especially external, in the same window, is super frustrating.

    0
  32. 7840

    I pride myself on being somewhat technically savvy. My mother and some of my friends are not. They sometimes find Copy and Paste challenging. I would say that they have no idea how to manually open a link in a new window. As a result, they always lose the original site when they click on a link and don’t always understand why. I know how to open a link in a new tab manually but sometimes forget and accidentally close the linked page. Then I discover that I can’t get back to the original site. So, from a user experience standpoint, I am firmly in the camp that says open internal links on the same page and open external links in a new tab. Even my non-technical relatives and friends can handle multiple tabs.

    0
  33. 8041

    Lol this post sbeen going on for 5 years… i started making a count of nr of ppl ‘pro new win’ versus ‘against’ but gave up … ‘pro new win’ was in the lead, big time.

    Question: is there a different recommendation for mobile UX?

    I propose a compromise: target=_old … it suggests ‘same’ window but prolly opens ‘new’ (hahahaha)

    Cheers,
    B

    0

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