11 February 2012

UX Movement: “Why External Links Should Open in New Tabs”

Links that take users to different websites should open in new tabs. Links that take users to a different page on the same website should open in the same tab. If you’re opening external links in the same tab as your site, this affects both you and your users. You not only experience inaccurate analytics and make your website work harder, but you also make your users work harder and slower. In a world today where links dominate the web, making your links open the right way is almost as important linking to the right page.


I see a lot of people disagreeing with this article in the comments section. I for one completely agree with it and am currently using this practice on my blog (manually, but Windows Live Writer makes this very easy).

I really don’t understand the argument about ‘user choice’. As long as visitors are on my site, they should behave by my rules. That’s the whole point of rules and policies for comments, btw.

Besides, all the people arguing against this seem to assume that users will look at the tiny tooltip with the target address and start thinking: “Oh, wait, this link is going to another site, I should press Ctrl to open it in a new tab!” – really, who does that?! I’m sure more than half of Internet surfers don’t even know about this feature, let alone use it regularly. It’s much better if this is taken care of by the site owner in the background, who already knows if the link is internal or external and can automate the process.

I can’t remember how many times I clicked on a link while I was halfway through an article only to have the target load in the same tab, taking me away from that article, costing me time to hit ‘Back’ and to wait for the original page to load. Is this really a better experience just because it respects ‘user choice’?!

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