Why None of the External Links on this Website Open in a New Window
Published: Dec 4th, 2012 | 1 Comment
I’m often asked why it is that external links on the Coolfields Consulting website don’t open those links in a new window or tab. “Surely” they say, “if all your links open in the same window and they leave your site, they may never come back”.
Well I suppose it’s possible that people may never come back, but if they want to come back I’m sure most people know how the back button works.
But the two main reasons that I choose not to open a new window for external links are:
- User control
Opening new windows without warning can confuse and disorientate some users – perhaps those using screen readers, but also perhaps those with some kind of cognitive impairments for whom sudden changes of browser window can spoil concentration.
Now I know that sometimes it’s OK to open a new window or tab – perhaps if you are in the middle of a transaction flow in online banking and you need some help. In those situations, moving away from the transaction might interfere with the way the transaction works and so a help window or panel can get around this.
However, in situations where a new window or panel is going to open it is vital that the link that opens the link informs the user that it’s going to happen. This warning should be a visible warning so that all users understand – it is not enough to just have some text added in for screen reader user.
I think this is important too. Who am I to dictate when a user wants to open a new browser window? Why not just give the user the choice as to whether a link opens a new window or not?
When I’m browsing I often right-click on a link and select ‘Open link in new tab’ when I know I might want to read an article later. I’m sure there’s an equivalent command in mac-world too.
One thing that I could do when I rework this website in the new year is to indicate for users when a link is to an external site – once again both visibly and for screen readers. That way people can simply choose what to do.
So there you are, now you know why I don’t open new windows on my site.
If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them. You can leave them below.
Other Usability posts
- WordPress Permanently Visible Log Out Link Plugin – Version 0.1 - Feb 15th, 2013
- Specification for an Accessible Lightbox - Dec 16th, 2011
- Accessible Forms – Grouping Options With Optgroup - Aug 24th, 2011
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