Why None of the External Links on this Website Open in a New Window

Published: | 2 Comments

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”.

Screen cluttered with new windows

Screen cluttered with new windows

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:

  • Accessibility
  • User control

Accessibility

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.

User Control

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.

Conclusion

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

Share this page (Links open new windows/tabs)

  • Share this page on LinkedIn (opens new window)
  • Share this page on Delicious (opens new window)
  • Share this page on Digg (opens new window)
  • Share this page on Posterous (opens new window)
  • Share this page on Reddit (opens new window)

2 Responses to “Why None of the External Links on this Website Open in a New Window”

  1. From: External Links: Accessibilty and Control | Blog | MRW Web Design on March 5th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    […] Read “Why None of the External Links on this Website Open in a New Window” on Coolfields… TwitterLinkedInFacebookMoreGoogle +1EmailPrintPinterestTumblrDiggReddit Posted on March 5th, 2013 Categorized: Best Practices Click here to cancel reply. Cancel Reply […]

  2. From: dharmesh on May 3rd, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    nice article we should use back button instead use new site in new tab

Like to leave a comment?

Please note: All comments are moderated before they will appear on this site.





Previous post:

Next post: