Target Of Your Links

by derek on May 23, 2007 · 29 comments

With my effort to visit new blogs and try to expand my growing community, I’ve noticed that quite a few blogs handle their external links in different fashions.

The two primary differences with external links are whether the resulting page opens in the same window/tab or launches a new window. While there are methods that you can use to dictate how the link will open, I am only focusing on the default behavior of clicking on the link.

My preference is to create all of my external links such that they open in the same window or tab that the user is using to browse my site. While I can understand why some site owners opt to launch the links in a new window, I know that I do not care for that behavior and thought I would share my thoughts with you.

Open Links In Current Window
The main reason that I create my external links to open in the current window is because as a user of the Interweb I know that when a site attempts to force a new window on me I often become frustrated with the site. Once I become frustrated with a site, I’m less likely to continue visiting that site.

When it comes to the Interweb, many users prefer to maintain as much control as possible while they read through a site. It is possible as a visitor to open a link in such a fashion that it opens in a new browser tab as opposed to a new window, assuming of course that you are using a browser that supports tabs. But when a site owner specifies that a link should open in a new window, it eliminates the ability for the user to browse that external link in the current window – thus removing the control from the user.

Open Links In New Window
One of the reasons that site owners often set their external links to open in a new window is to prevent the user from navigating away from their page. While I can appreciate this given how hard it can be to even get the user to your site, I believe that many users will either manually open the link in a new tab/window or they will find their way back to your site once they have explored the external link.

From a marketing perspective, you do not want to willingly push your customers or visitors away to another site. However, in my experience a user is more likely to navigate back to your site when they have had a pleasant experience. When a site is launching new windows each time I click on a link, it reduces the pleasantness of my experience. Therefore the very concern the site owner was hoping to avoid has fulfilled itself.

What Do You Do?
While I feel quite strongly about opening external links in the current window, I realize that different people have their own reasons for opening links in a new window.

As a site owner, which method do you implement for external links and why? As a site visitor, are you frustrated when a site launches new windows when you click on a link or have you learned to accept this practice?

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