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Should Links Open In New Windows?

July 27, 2008

Whether or not you choose to have links open in new windows is extremely important, and is something a lot of people have different opinions about. The whole matter of the issue is how user-friendly your website is. Clicking on a link and having it open in a new window may annoy a lot of your readers; it will also take away the option to click the back button in this new window. This will most likely end up in the reader closing the new window that was opened–so why have it open in the first place right?

Shouldn’t this depend on what type of website you have?

Some people say it depends on what type of site you have and what kind of audience you attract, but in all reality it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t have links open in new windows. The majority of people dislike this, and will close the window and go elsewhere to find the information they need.

It’s much more comfortable for a reader to click on the link, have it open in the same window, then be able to click the back button after they are finished reading. If links open in new windows on your site you may clutter your readers browser with unwanted tabs that can get in the way; I for one can say am really annoyed by this.

So all the links on my site should open in the same window?

If you want to make your site as user-friendly as possible, then yes, you should have links on your site open in the same window. Now when I say links I’m referring to external links.

What’s an external link?

An external link is a link that points to another website.

e.g., if my site is TopBusinessReviews.com and I have a link on this post that points to Google.com, then that is an external link because Google is its own .com.

So when I say your links should open in the same window and I mention I’m referring to external links it’s because your internal links should already be opening in the same window; there is no reason for your internal links to open in a new window.

So what’s the reason people open links in a new window anyway?

Well the people who do open links in a new window do so for a simple reason: they don’t want the visitor or reader to leave their site. They figure if they put a link to another website their readers are going to click on it, and go to that website leaving theirs behind. In order for them to keep readers on their site for longer periods of time they decided to open external links in new windows, so that they could still recommend other websites while making sure visitors never left theirs.

Their plan backfired

Instead of their visitors staying for longer periods of time, they left even quicker, annoyed by the links that opened in new windows cluttering their browser with tabs and stripping them of their user-friendly back button. Their plan had backfired. By now, opening external links in the same window is the right thing to do for many reasons: it will make your site more user-friendly, making your site more valuable, and tolerable for the majority of the blogosphere that prefers links opening in the same window.

Everyone is different

Needless to say we all live on this beautiful planet called Earth, and everyone here happens to be different. Even though the majority of the blogosphere would rather have links open in the same window, there are people who prefer to have them open in a new window. You’re probably asking yourself:

How in the world am I going to please both parties?

Well, you don’t have to, but you can. It isn’t necessary, but you can have people decide for themselves whether or not they want links opened in new windows; ultimately, that is the most user-friendly option available–can’t get more user-friendly then letting the person decide for themselves. However you should know this isn’t a must and your site will not lose any credibility for not letting your readers decide for themselves. The way to go is just to have them open in the same window, but if you want to or feel you need to go the extra mile then I’ll show you how below.

How to let your readers decide

I stumbled upon a post on SmashingMagazine.com, and found out you can choose to let your readers decide on whether or not links should open in a new window by using a check-box. The check-box will ask if they would like to have links open in new a window; if checked they will, if left alone they won’t–quite simple really.

Here’s the code for the check-box

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:

<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>

Note: You have to replace domain.com with your own domain in order for the code to tell the difference between internal and external links.

Apply this code to whatever part of your site you want a check-box to appear. You can see what it will look like, and take it on for a test run below

Open external links in a new tab?

In all reality it’s important to remember that having links open in a the same window is just as good. On the other hand if you want your readers to have control or think your type of audience has the need to be in control, then going with the check-box is a good idea.

I hope this post was of some use to you guys and helped you make your website or blog more user-friendly. I would love to hear what you guys think about this. Do links that open in a new window annoy you, or are you tolerant of them?

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Comments

7 Responses to “Should Links Open In New Windows?”

  1. clickfire on July 29th, 2008 6:39 pm

    Definitely something designers think about a lot. You’re right that everyone is different. When I surf, I have the habit of right-clicking on the link to open up a new browser if I care about keeping the existing browser open. I don’t really like tabs. So I always get a new window when I want one. Of course, a javascript pop-up window is the exception.

  2. Luis Gross on July 30th, 2008 2:42 am

    Yes. It is something to give thought. It took me a little research and some personal user-experience on other sites before I realized it myself. Even then I also have the habit of occasionally right-clicking to open a new window.

  3. Simon on August 2nd, 2008 10:36 am

    Personally, I don’t agree with this because I always right click and open links in a new window, that’s just the way I surf the internet. I even do this with email as I have my inbox in the main window and then open each new message in a new window. It would be interesting to know how rare or common this type of behaviour really is.

  4. Luis Gross on August 2nd, 2008 2:14 pm

    @Simon – You’re not alone. There are plenty other people who right click and open links in a new windows, but in my opinion, and from what research shows, the minority of the blogosphere does this.

  5. MoonDog on August 4th, 2008 2:58 am

    I don’t care what the research shows, opening links in new windows depends on what you’re linking to. Sports blogs are completely different than any other niche blog. We’re generally linking to content that is of common interest and supports your the article you’ve written.

    Not to mention, if you use Firefox, when a new window is opened, you have every available option to do what you want. My site stats prove that opening new windows is advantageous and keeps traffic connected to my site,

  6. Luis Gross on August 4th, 2008 3:23 am

    @MoonDog – Thanks for sharing that with us! I personally don’t like links that open in new windows automatically; the back button is disabled and I get cluttered with tabs–but that’s just me.

  7. Should links open in new window? - Thirty Day Challenge Forums on August 27th, 2008 9:14 am

    [...] links open in new window? Should Links Open In New Windows? | Make Money Online I would like to readers thoughts on this very topic. In the 30 day challenge we have them open in [...]

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