Thursday, July 30, 2015

The pros and cons of forcing links to open in a new window using target="_blank"

Whether or not to force links to open in a new window has been an ongoing argument in the web development community for some time now. If you were to Google the topic, you’ll find find lots of strong opinions on both sides of the argument.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at both the pros and cons of using either approach on your website.

PROS

It will make sure users can easily get back to your website from external links since your website will still be there in the background. Some less savvy users may benefit from this approach, since it more clearly demonstrates that you are leaving one website for another one.

If users are engaging in a process like filling out a form or making a purchase, or interacting with media such as video or audio, opening links in a new window will keep them from being interrupted.

It’s useful for informational links that users might want open in addition to your website, such as instructions for a process on your website.

CONS

Opening links in a new window is often considered a bad usability practice, since it changes the expected behavior of a link and takes control away from the user. Many users are familiar enough with how to browse the internet that they can decide how they want to open a link, whether in the same window, a new window, or a new tab.

New windows can cause confusion while browsing a website. If a link opens in a new window, this disables the functionality of the browser’s back button, and the new window has to be manually closed to return to the previous page.

On mobile devices, managing multiple windows can be a more difficult task than when viewing a website on desktop.

So, which approach is better?

As you can see, there is valid reasoning on both sides of the argument. However, no matter which approach you choose, make sure your decision is ultimately based on what’s best for your users.


Need help making decisions for your website?

Here at TBH Creative, we stay up-to-date on the best practices and new developments in the industry so we can help you make informed decisions regarding your website and online marketing strategy. Learn more about our variety of services.
Kayleigh

About the author | Kayleigh Circle

Kayleigh is a web developer at TBH Creative, specializing in front-end development and responsive design. She likes to blog about a variety of web design topics, including design tips, the latest trends in the industry, and how to make your website more successful.

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