Should You Open Links In New Windows?

Should You Open Links In New Windows?The WPMU DEV Facebook Page is a great resource (if I do say so myself). Not only do WPMU.org fans get the freshest posts delivered straight to their timeline, but we can ask questions relating to WordPress and get answers in moments.

According to some recent polls, most WPMU DEV fans have never had an active WordPress.com account (a question I asked to coincide with my recent WordPress.com vs self-hosted WordPress article). And 83% of you think Matt Mullenweg is a good guy (the other 17% are not so complimentary).

Get To The Point…

Okay, sorry. You may be wondering what this has to do with opening links in new windows. Well, I ran a poll back on April 5th, asking the WPMU DEV Facebook fans if it irritates them when links automatically open in new windows.

Only 7.5% were “indifferent” – the vast majority of voters had a clear opinion one way or the other. And the majority opinion was a resounding “No” – 74% were not bothered by links opening in new windows.

To be honest, the result surprised me – I thought links opening in new windows would be a bugbear of web-savvy people like WPMU DEV users. The usability argument is greatly against opening links in new windows, because it takes control away from the end user (a big no no). But one might make the point that the usability argument has been turned on its head – because so many people now set links (especially external ones) to open in new windows, people expect it to happen.

What About You?

The interesting thing to note about the WPMU DEV Facebook poll is the type of voter. As I already mentioned above, we are dealing with web-savvy people – not your typical surfer. I would be interested to see the outcome of such a poll if I were able to ask the question to a more “general” audience.

Personally, I would prefer that links are never set to open in new windows. I can make the choice myself, thank you very much. So I guess I am an advocate of the age-old usability argument. And yet, I typically set links to open in new windows – out of habit, if nothing else.

But what about you? When it comes to hyperlinks, are you bothered if the decision is taken away from you? Do you set links to open in new windows on your own sites? What are your arguments for and against opening links in new windows? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of dorena-wm

12 Responses

  • Opening in a new window is very different from what happens today with the advent of tabbed browsing. I much prefer a new tab opening as I may click a link for future reference half way through a blog post. It would be annoying to me if I had to stop reading a post just because I clicked on a link. I agree however that if the link opened an entirely new window I’d go ballistic.

  • As a rule on my own sites and those of my clients, If the link is internal and goes to a page or section where the user still has access to the same navigation and access to contact and other important information, I DO NOT set them to open in a new window.

    If the link goes to an outside site, or takes them away from the main navigation and access to contact information, I DO set it to open in a new window.

  • I have used the same rule of thumb someone mentioned here – internal links, open in same window, external, open in new window.

    The results you listed were interesting. I have brought this up in several of my workshops. And I have found it might be more of how you have always used browsers to get back to where you were.

    Some say they find the new windows annoying, too many opened.

    Others say they like the new windows, as they can go back easier and find where they originally started.

    And the other interesting point, many have also said they have grown up using browsers and the back arrow. When they can’t click that back arrow to get to where they were, they are totally frustrated.

  • I hate new windows. I don’t mind links opening in new tabs, but if I want that to happen I usually just middle mouse click on it.

  • I have read some pretty good sources that say to never open a link in a new tab or window. Users can make this choice themselves, and novice users often don’t know what happened. CNET, for example, doesn’t open internal or external links in a new window. My hunch is that a big site like that goes through usability testing.

    Google News, however, does open links in new tabs. A web portal blurbs and links to external sites has a good case for doing so. A news blog/website with a few external links? Let the user decide.

    I did the same internal-same-tab/external-new-tab delineation, but I think it is better to let the user decide. Even novice users know how to use the back button. Back is so ubiquitous, the Mac even has a gesture for it. For me, moving back is easier than opening switching tabs.

  • The Washington Post also opens links in the same tab/window. Yes, the same Washington Post of Woodward and Bernstein fame — the reason every scandal has a “gate” appended to it. I am in the process of looking at what the “big boys” do before I completely make my decision. I would offer that advice to anyone. Most large, professional sites are usability tested. They agonized over this decision and made it scientifically. You can leverage that. In my software engineering career, I have worked on many products and web apps that have been usability tested. It is a true science, and produces better results than hunches and conjecture.

    Keep in mind, you need to find a site that is similar to yours. If you run a portal with blurbs and external links, like Google News, you should probably open links in new tabs. If you run a content site that offers news and the like, most of the big ones open links in the same tab or window. I’m going to do what the pros do… They rely on advertising and these decisions are worth millions of dollars. I think they put more thought into it (based on usability research rather than hunches).

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