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Should Links Open in a New Window?

Posted By Darren Rowse 26th of June 2007 Blog Design 0 Comments

Joanna asks – “I’d find it useful to hear your views Darren on the question of links opening in a new window. I was tutored to set them up to open in a new window so I didn’t lose visitors, but I see other people think it’s ‘spammy’.”

The old ‘should I make links open in a new window’ question – an oldie but a goodie.

My personal preference as a web surfer is that if I want to see a link in a new window (or tab – I’m a big tabbed browser fan) I’ll open it in one (and I do – regularly). I find it incredibly annoying when a new window opens up without me asking for it to. I have enough windows open on my desktop at any one time without needing more!

This personal preference has shaped my own practice as a web developer and blogger – I let readers choose how they wish to open the link. Yes, in doing so I’m sure some leave my blog, never to return, but I’m sure in not forcing new windows on readers that I also retain a few that would become annoyed by new windows opening all the time.

My priority as a blogger is to develop communities of readers who have positive user experiences. While keeping people on a blog by opening new windows for links might seem to make a blog stickier – I’d rather keep people engaged with content that they just can’t live without coming back to. If they do leave the site and want to come back they’ll use the back button.

From what I can tell – the two main reasons that it is legit to have links open in new windows is when you’re linking to a document (PDF) or a large image.

IF I ever decided I had a good reason to open something in a new window I’d make a note of it so the reader knew what to expect.

What Do You Think?

I’d be interested to open this up for a discussion though as I’m sure there are a variety of opinions on the topic. Perhaps others with different kinds of goals for their blogs see things differently.

Do you open links in new windows? Why or Why not?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I always middle click to open the link or article in a new tab anyways. Therefore, I always have regular left-clicking open the article in the current tab or window. If someone wants to open it in a tab, they will probably use the middle click option anyways, since most sites have different ways of handling it.

    One thing that I am sure of is that new windows are the devil. I will usually stop viewing any site that constantly bombards me with new windows unless it is a site that is offering exclusive content that absolutely need. Even then I will generally search elsewhere for the content.

  2. In libraries, student enrollment areas, etc, PCs are often locked down into ‘Kiosk’ mode, which which removes address bar and toolbars. (not the same as full screen mode). It allows you to provide a machine for users to surf only from your homepage and to therefore only be able to use the links you provide from that page… rather than being able to search or type in any address you like.
    Unfortunately, if you manage to open up a new page (either by pressing Control O, or clicking on a link that forces a new page to open), the page the opens up is NO LONGER in Kiosk mode ! This circumvents the intended security as users can now happily surf the net from the newly launched page. The solution is to use a policy to prevent new pages from opening. That successfully restricts the machine, but any link that does launch a new windows now will no longer work – the user sees a message ‘This action was restricted by group policy’ or some such message. Clearly the solution is then for the web developer to go through their site and change all links so that they no longer attempt to open a new page. But what if the web developer is not on your side and insists on opening new windows. Their webpage may be in use by thousands of PCs in your organisation, but only in use on a few Kiosk PCs. We’d like to find a way to successfully lock down a Kiosk PC while still working with badly behaved webpages that try to open new windows.

    I know there’s a setting to force links to open in a new tab or window.. but what about the other way around? Is it possible to force links that do currently attempt to open a new window, to instead open in the current window. That would solve my Kiosk PC configuration dilemma !

  3. Does anyone know how or if it is even possible to put in a piece of code that makes all links to outside websites open in a new window?
    -Ty, brblife.com

  4. My votes got to be for new tab, I get lost easy and I like tabbed browsing.

  5. I think that I would choose to open in a new window if the link led to something non-essential such as a poll or a larger photo or a code example (such as an alternate style sheet used for illustration purposes).
    I actually gave this matter some deeper thought a few days ago and decided that a new window (with warning to the reader in the title and link text) would be appropriate as discussed above but that it would be better to allow a viewer to glide off into the sunset on friendly terms than to corral one into staying a minute longer than they absolutely wanted to.

    I’m just getting my feet wet with blogs and have tons yet to learn, but previous business experiences have shown it better to yield a customer gracefully than to wrestle one to the ground.

    Today, I got trapped on a site that very much wanted to install some software on my HD. I ended up killing my browser with the three-finger salute to get away from what was clearly a mal-ware trap. D’ya think I’ll EVER be back? Not in this life, Jack.

    I don’t want to do that to my viewers except by writing such compelling prose that they willingly stay.

    Except for the options I mentioned above, I think my viewers would feel like a link that ONLY opens in a new window is the beginning of such a trap.

  6. Question:
    I have a eBook that has supplemental material links to websites IF the reader so chooses to reference or read them. In this instance I would like to have these links open in a new custom sized window, right over the eBook page, and when they are done reading, they just close and continue on with the book.
    In all prior versions of IE, that has worked fine.
    With IE7 and Vista, they all open in a new tab no matter what I do.
    IMHO, this interrupts with the reading thot process, since there is a “disrupt” as readers momentarily adjusts to the tab. So I would say it depends on what the application is.

    BTW, any one knows how I can work around this (the links are http links, not text material that can be pre-loaded to show in window if needed, before hand unfortunately).

  7. I like to open links in a new window.

  8. I think that any external link should be opened in its own window, so user can return to original site. However, I keep links to same site on the original window.

    Why annoy someone who is visiting another link on your site?

    For myself, with Firefox on Linux, I use the middle mouse button to open them in a new tab. This way I can return to the previous document with Control+W.

    I don’t like using the back button, because many documents want to reload themself.

  9. Hi guys,

    I found this site when looking for conversation on “opening links in new windows”. I was looking for code to set links to open in new windows because I’d decided to include more syndicated content on my blog.

    As a surfer, I always right click links to open in a new tab. With the syndicated content, I wanted to keep the readers. But with the ease of blogging now, i hate going back and fixing links. So this discussion has helped a lot.

    Also as a surfer, i find myself getting tired of windows and extra tabs. I’m starting to enjoy the history on the back an forward buttons. So I figured if the link does open in a new window, the reader can just use the history to come back to the blog.

    Allowing the reader to choose (if they right click) seems to be enough. Especially for those of us who read while working.

  10. my_opinion says: 03/02/2008 at 8:49 am

    Nice posting. I find if a system is too automated and too complex (as most of us know, the more the automation, the more potential for encountering programming bugs) then it’s not worth it.

    Who has time to try to fix things? Maybe it’s a ploy to keep IT wages high, while alienating the average users.

    The computer field has forgotten the KISS method (keep it simple).

    I happen to help individuals with ‘disabilities’ and of the ‘elderly’ category and they are getting more and more alienated with each software release (most any product they are using – starting from the OS and more – oh wait, that would most likely be MICROSOFT products!).

    Most of these people have limited income. To keep upgrading software and requiring new hardware purchases is a way to alienate consumers quickly. They just give up.

    Think about it folks, when you lose the users because of complexity they generally find it’s no longer a convenience and just stop purchasing and upgrading. That would in turn hit the sellers of ISP, software companies, and technical support.
    Hmmm…. Think of all that money you can put into your IRA if we didn’t have to purchase so much to keep going.

    By golly this may be a good idea for everyone… just throw out the computers and go spend time with the family!!
    Hmmm….. would that change the online bullying issue?

    Just wait til you have to ‘upgrade’ your car to get to work!
    Can you hear it now, “but bossman my wireless connection was down”….

    Hurry, someone start a petition – outlawing Microsoft from our vehicles!!!! LOL

  11. As a Mac user, I must say I always prefer links to open in new tabs — because the “right-click” on a Mac requires you use the ctrl key (ctrl + mouse click), which means I need to use an extra hand — and I find that annoying. Besides, it entirely depends on the user’s defaults and preferences. If you’re used to things opening in a new window, you’ll get annoyed if they open in the same — the flipside to what you’re talking about.

    But, again, I’m pretty biased as a maccie, so just in my subjective judgment, I’ve set my blog’s links to always open in new tabs/windows. Hope I’m not annoying anyone too much, hmmm…

  12. Can someone please tell me how I can set up my blogspot blog so that when a visitor clicks any link on the page, a new tab (and NOT a new window) opens up in their browser?

  13. Oh great…I googled this question and was hoping for a solid yes/no answer…HAHAHA.

    I guess I will never know!

  14. Robert says: 08/20/2008 at 12:36 pm

    One reason to open a new window/tab to external sites is to re-inforce to users that the content is not mine. If my page is discussing how our school does things, and I have a link to a resources such as the IRS, I want the user to realize the he has left our site and in on the IRS site. If you open in the same window, some users don’t get that the content is not affiliated with the school.

  15. Why would you not want a new window to open???
    To not have to navigate back to where you started.
    Lots of stupid webpages nowadays try to keep you from going back…soooo….if it was opened in a new window
    that wouldn’t be a problem.
    Just my 2 cents worth….:)

  16. Claude Schnéegans says: 09/18/2008 at 5:51 am


    There is another good reason external links shoul open in a blank window: some sites use immediate redirection, making the back button inoperant, and the visitor cannot go back to your site.
    Now, THIS is spammy, if not hijacking, whatever you call it.

  17. I dont like to open link in a new window,i like to open link in a new tab.

  18. Wow. Live and learn. I never knew I could “middle click”!

  19. I think all links should open in the same window & tab. There are 2 reasons for that:
    1) it gives the user the choice to open the link in another tab or window, by using ctrl+click or equivalent (middle mouse button, apple+click, etc.). However, if by default the links open in another window, there is no universal shortcut to force it to open in the same window. so open a link in the current window/tab gives user more freedom.
    2) back button keeps working.

    however I think it’s good to differentiate internal and external links in appearance. how wikipedia does it (with an additional icon for external links which opens them in a new tab) seems a best practice to me.

    I am looking for exceptions to these conventions.

  20. When I browse, click a link in some site, and it pops up, I always close the source window. If I wanted to keep the source window, I would have open a new tab or window myself. And since the source window is now closed, and I only have the pop up window open, the back button doesn’t work either. So congratulations website. You just 100 % shot yourself in your foot by preventing me from getting back to your site, if I later regret leaving it. Think about that next time you make a link somewhere.

  21. I just think that doing your links in the same window gives your users more freedom. They can right-click and open them in a new window if they prefer that (and/or set their browser to open new windows in tabs).

    And BS makes a good point above. Now that I think about it, I do the same thing… automatically close source windows and tabs (to keep everything from getting cluttered).

    I can see why it seems like a good idea to open links in new windows but I think that when you really think it through, the same window link argument just edges it.

  22. cyberwiz says: 06/18/2009 at 9:38 am

    The best way is imho to setup your browser to automatically open new windows in a new tab instead.

    Now for the site creator, I would only open new windows for things like large charts or other large images.

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