External Links – To Open New Window or Not?

I just read a post on Yvonne’s blog about “Do You Force Your External Links to Open in a New Window?” which more or less “forced” me to write this post.

The question was brought up in response to a post by Lorelle Van Fossen who talked about “Things I Want Gone From the Web in 2007… and Forever“. Taking the same quote as Yvonne, this is what Lorelle said:

“Do not use target=”_blank” in your links to force open new windows or tabs from your links on your blog. They are not user-friendly and violate web and accessibility standards. Let the individual control their browsing experience. Everyone has learned to use the Back button, so stop forcing new windows to open from your links.”

My own humble opinion is that many people have really got a lot of opinions about Web 2.0, but what is killing me, is that everyone seems to be quoting Web 2.0 as the reason. If it rained tomorrow and your umbrella broke, it will probably be because the umbrella company did not follow Web 2.0

The argument here is that Web 2.0 advocates user-friendliness and hence, “_blank” is no longer acceptable. Since when are we required to only be reading ONE WINDOW while surfing the web? Is this called user friendly? Are users so myopic and so scatter-brained that they cannot handle multiple windows being open? Anyway, let’s not argue those points. Instead, I would just like to paint a scenario and you be the judge as to which is the better “way”.

Scenario 1: You are reading this post. Right at the top of this post, I referenced Yvonne’s post. And I made a statement that it “forced” me to write this post. So, of course, you would be curious to know what monstrosity of a post Yvonne wrote that forced my hand. Right? So you click. But just as you click on the link, you realise that there is yet another link below that to a post by Lorelle. Using Lorelle’s Web 2.0 Way, you go to Yvonne’s post, read it (don’t click on any links there!) then you use your BACK button, get back here, click on Lorelle’s post, read it (don’t click on…) then you use your BACK button, get back here, keep reading… by which time, you would have lost track of my train of thought and also, you would probably want to go back and read Yvonne’s and Lorelle’s post again to compare it to what I said, and so on…

Scenario 2: You are reading this post. You see my reference to Yvonne’s post and you click on that link. You continue reading and see Lorelle’s post, and you click on that too. You switch over to the window with Yvonne’s post and read it, switching back and forth at will, no need to wait for each page to re-load (as you would have to using the Back button). You can read any of the 3 posts any way you choose. You choose.

Now, which way gave you more freedom? Which way forced you to go in only one direction? The days when you flip a book from page 1 to 2 to 3 are over. This is the Internet. This is the browser age. I sometimes have as many as 20 tabs and/or windows open at a time. All interesting or potentially so, but I do want to finish reading whatever it was I was reading first and get to those other stuff later. Disable right-click? Force this, force that? I doubt if Web 2.0 asks you to handcuff your readers to a prescribed “best” way. The only best way of interacting on the web is YOUR way. The site that allows me to surf the way I want is the good site. Better yet, the site that is created so that the way their content and sections flow and the inter-lock are exactly how I envision them to be, that is good. Notice I said “good”. I did not say “Web 2.0”.

Don’t get me wrong, I do agree with many of the things that Lorelle said to be removed (especially those pop up advertising windows!). I just feel that it might not be the best way to dictate specifics as a rule to everyone.

[tags]web 2.0, user friendly, surfing[/tags]

4 Replies to “External Links – To Open New Window or Not?”

  1. Actually, the issue of forcing links to open in new windows has nothing to do with Web 2.0, whatever that is. I’m still waiting for a clean definition. It has to do with meeting web standards for accessibility, set by the W3.org.

    And, research has shown that people read an article enough to determine if there is enough worthwhile to read before they click any links in the article and leave the page. And people not only know how to ue their back button, with tabs, they have learned how to use the center button of their mouse or the CTRL+click to open any link in a new tab, possibly leaving your page open in their browser for hours or days while they look at what you have to offer.

    The incredible thing about the blogosphere is that it is a place where, by recommending someone leave your blog, if they find worthwhile content from your recommendations, they come back, often telling and bringing their friends with them. Link blogs are HUGE and popular, and all they do is tell people to leave their blog.

    There are a lot of presumptions made on the web, but when you really look at how people use things, these are the myths that are perpetuated, not truths.

    Forced links take control away from the reader. You want to put control back in their hands and you will have a loving audience.

  2. Yes, Lorelle, its true that many people know how to use their browser, but with the Internet becoming more and more ubiquitous there also are many who use the browsers in the most basic of ways. Well, I guess everyone has their own style. But its true,the more sophisticated users know. For me, I alway right-click, open new tab. For those who disable right click, I leave. They must have something to hide! :evil grin:

    Yay, Laura! :D

  3. I agree with you, Calvin. I open external links within a post in a new window. That’s the way I prefer, and I guess we all tend to think everyone else is like us. :-)

    There was a big discussion on this over at Problogger recently, and the opinions seemed to be about evenly divided on what bloggers preferred and did. It seems that tech blogs may do best without opening in a new window because technie users seem to prefer links opening in the same window. However, those who are less technically inclined, especially less-experienced Internet users, prefer new windows. I’m no techie, but I consider myself fairly Internet savvy … but I prefer new windows. And my observations are just what it looks like to me from the comments I’ve read on Problogger and Yvonne’s post, nothing more than my opinion.

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