Good UX Means Good Business
In a world where technology is rapidly advancing and user expectations are rising, it’s no longer enough to have an average user experience; to delight your users and surpass your competition you must strive for the exceptional.
I’ve had this discussion several times in my career in the user experience field: Should this link open in a new tab/window (HTML link attribute target=”_blank”) or in the same window? My understanding has generally been that if the link goes to an external site or to a help or informational-type page, it should be opened as a new window along with some affordance that the link goes away from the site (per WCAG 10.1). However, I dug a little deeper into the pros and cons on this topic and found a number of good arguments on both sides.
Let’s go over the reasons to use a new tab/window first:
- For external links, a new tab/window more clearly communicates that the destination is an entirely separate site, and doesn’t “close” your site at the same time.
- For external and help or informational links, both windows can be viewed simultaneously, assuming the target window is sized appropriately.
- With the newer tab-based browsers, users have a much easier time managing multiple open URLs and even prefer this to a long history in the same tab.
- With mobile devices, new windows are better than same windows because if the user wants to go back to the previous page, they don’t have to reload it.
- Users with multiple monitors like to have separate windows to display on separate monitors.
- You “break the back button” because the user does not have a back trail of URLs.
- Users get confused by new tabs/windows.
- Users have too many tabs/windows open if this gets overused.
- If you force a new window, users who don’t like that functionality have no choice, whereas if you use the same window, users can use CTRL+click or right-click/Open in New (or with some mouse controls, a dedicated button) to choose whether or not they want a separate window.
- Your web statistics won’t be as reliable because this will create artificially longer visit times when users are actually on other sites. Note: this is typically handled by a forced timeout after a designated amount of time without activity.
- If the user clicks the link to an external site, it likely means he/she is done with your site, and it will irritate them that you have left an unwanted tab/window open for them to close.
- Some screen readers do not notify users when a new window has opened, causing accessibility concerns.
Thoughts or input? Please share.