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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Vince Cordic May 23, 2007 at 7:29 pm

Sometimes I set links to open in a new window, and sometimes I don’t.

If the link is the next logical step in the post, or compliments the post I’ll usually open it in the same window. On the other hand if the link is more of an extra or I’m just mentioning it, I’ll open it in a new window.

msdanielle May 23, 2007 at 11:16 pm

i’m a marketer, so naturally i set all my outbound links to _blank. i was actually going to post on this too :) i leave internal links to open in the same page. they’re not technically navigating away from my site anyway. as a user, i prefer outbound links to open in a new window if i just click on it. but i don’t risk it, and i usually right click and open in a new tab. if i’m in the middle of an article, i don’t want to navigate away. my ADD will get the best of me…and i’ll never finish the article… ;)

derek May 24, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Danielle, you make an interesting point about navigating away while in the middle of an article.

As a user, I tend to open all links in a new tab so I bypass the intent of the site owner regardless. Typically I will even open internal site links in a new tab so as not to disrupt my reading of the current article.

Vince Cordic May 24, 2007 at 2:10 am

msdanielle:

I also just open all my links in a new tab for the same reason as you. If I don’t I’ll get distracted and never see the article again.

Also with satellite internet, being as slow as it is, I’ve become used to waiting for things to load in a new tab while I do something else.

msdanielle May 24, 2007 at 7:50 pm

do you bookmark a lot of stuff? i keep finding myself forgetting where i saw articles and what not? i have a gazillion links in my bookmarks too but sometimes i still never finish them! …i really need to do something about it…

Chris Gray May 24, 2007 at 9:38 am

I try to open my links in the same window. I find it to be quite annoying when I am on a “sticky” site and attempt to leave using an outbound link just to be forced to another window/tab. I like to let the user decide if they want open in a new window/tab on their own. If figure if they want to leave, better to let them leave happy than frustrated.

derek May 24, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Chris, it seems like we share a common approach to the links on our sites but based on the feedback we may be in the minority as quite a few use a new window.

When I am browsing, I usually don’t like new windows being spawned unless I initiated the action and that is why I have taken that approach with my links.

Damien Riley May 24, 2007 at 11:51 am

Why for me it’s a no-brainer:

IE, Firefox, and Netscape all have TABBING technology for auto-opening a new page in a new window. Therefore, it serves the same function as “New Window” only you still have the tab easily clickable from the tabbing bar area.

Clicking same window, or parent window will navigate completely away from your page leaving the user only the options of “BACK” (which can prove problematic with cookies and such or reloading your page completely from a bookmark or link on a site. To me, this is a bad option and totally unnecessary.

For this reason, I choose _self as a “no contest” winner in this discussion. I made a little tester page so you can observe exactly what each option does in all your browsers. Unofrtunately you’ll have to paste the address in each of the browsers manually. Feel free to use it if you want an easy way to test what I am talking about. Thanks Derek.

Link BROWSER TAB tester

Damien Riley May 24, 2007 at 11:55 am

Oops, I meant _blank was the best choice. Wife was talking to me. Anyway, see for yourself and let me know.

derek May 24, 2007 at 6:18 pm

Personally I am not a fan of _blank as unless the user manually selects a different option, it will launch the new window.

It is interesting to see the different opinions and approaches to something as basic as a link though, thanks for sharing your feedback!

Damien Riley May 24, 2007 at 12:20 pm

yikes. Working link here:

LINK TESTER

TechLemming May 24, 2007 at 12:25 pm

I like opening in a new window, and I use that on my blog also. I see no point in navigating away from an article just because there is a link in the first paragraph.

derek May 24, 2007 at 6:20 pm

It looks as if I am in the minority, although it would be interesting to see how many users actually click the link as-is versus selecting the link to open in a new tab.

msdanielle May 24, 2007 at 7:54 pm

i almost never click the link as-is. which is why it took my awhile to switch from yahoo to google in search (awhile ago). yahoo has that neat little double pane icon that allows you to open the page in another window in one click :D i know, so lame. i can’t believe how many comments there are on this subject! LOL

derek May 24, 2007 at 8:35 pm

Lol, sometimes it is the topic that seems so ordinary and basic that elicits the most conversation.

FWIW, you can easily open links in a new tab by clicking them with the wheel of your mouse. Although I guess you prefer to do a new window as opposed to a tab, I’d have to look if there are any shortcuts for that (but I would guess you know them already if they are out there).

now g net May 24, 2007 at 12:36 pm

It’s indeed very confusing when an external link opens in the same window, although the XHTML newest format does allow it. You end up losing the website you visited before. On the other hand, having tons of other windows open is also confusing. Guess it’s a matter of personal preference.

derek May 24, 2007 at 6:21 pm

You’re right that it does come down to personal preference. Since a lot of you seem to prefer the new window, I’ll warn you now that links here open in the same window but you can override that if you prefer.

If enough people ask for it, I would consider opening links in a new window though as I want to give the readers what they want from the site.

msdanielle May 24, 2007 at 7:56 pm

but it’s the same as the point you made in your article – those ppl will choose to open all the time in a new window if that’s what they prefer… like me!

betshopboy May 24, 2007 at 8:41 pm

When I read a blog post or article and click on the external links, I prefer the external homepage to load in a new window, so it would not disrupt my un-finish reading.

So for my blog post, I set the external links to load in a new window.

msdanielle May 25, 2007 at 2:30 am

Dude! Check out the check box in the right column at this guy’s blog! LOL i almost DIED laughing! H I L A R I O U S!! had to post it here of course :)
http://www.holovaty.com/

derek May 25, 2007 at 2:13 pm

That is a great find! :lol:

Pablo Rosales May 29, 2007 at 5:50 pm

I always open in a new tab, don’t like the “back” button :)

Don May 31, 2007 at 6:01 am

I always use the “open in a new window” feature when inserting a link into my post.

Why take the chance of someone clicking away?

Don

Rob O. June 10, 2007 at 12:43 am

I had, for the longest time, standardized on my own convention of opening external links in a new window. With internal links – those to other pages on my own site – I opted to not force those into a new window.

Now, I had established this as a “helper” for my visitors who were less-than-savvy with Internet browsing and quite a lot of my expected and/or intended audience (older relatives & friends and or other Internet newcomers) do (or did) fall into that category.

But over the past 5-6 months I’ve been reading quite a bit about this and my attitude has begun to shift. The consensus seems to be that forcing anything on the visitor, regardless of how sincere the intent, is rude. So, while I still slip up from time to time, I’ve been more mindful to try to break my old coding habits and not use the target=”_blank” attribute on links.

derek June 10, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Rob, welcome and thanks for sharing your input on the question of link targets.

It has been great to hear the differing opinions on something that seemed so basic and something that I never really gave a second thought to at the time. There are pros and cons for each method but I too fall into the camp that prefers not to force anything on my readers.

Cesar February 14, 2008 at 4:28 am

I am agree with you. Open in new window is reallly irritating me that’s way I always set the links in my blog in open in current windows. I think it is the best way to get more visitors.

Cesar May 28, 2008 at 1:13 am

I mostly use open link in current window for my site because I think it’s annoying to open a new window.

Cesar’s last blog post..Radio Glitch delays work on Mars

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