Pointer: should links open in new windows?

This very question was asked at our ALA preconference, and it’s a perennial one for web designers, librarians, and anyone who spends time on the web. Smashing Magazine has a lengthy and interesting answer, pointing out some new technologies that may, in some cases, make this question moot.

For my own self, I think it’s all about context. I usually open links from this blog in new windows, because when I read blogs I appreciate not losing where I am as I click through all the pointers to other comments and perspectives. Google Reader, my preferred blog reading tool, opens links in new windows so I don’t lose my place in the blog queue. That’s a good use of a new window, I think. There are definitely some good arguments against, though. Stepping stone links within a single site? No new windows!

ETA:  Amusingly, the link in this post does NOT open in a new window, b/c WordPress was having a tantrum and I’m a little too harried to go in and fix it in the code.  Caveat clicker!

One thought on “Pointer: should links open in new windows?

  1. Heather Pena says:

    I’ve always been a fan of opening new windows – because there is nothing i hate more than losing my page and hitting the back button. I’ve also brought this question up in web forums and found that only 0.3 percent of all users are bothered by opening new windows. Small fraction. So it really depends.

    The biggest gripe from users seem to come from businesses, companies, who are pushing a product (or such) onto the user. Of course they would create the target=”_blank” tag – they are trying to make a profit! =)

    However, for facebook pages in particular, I stand by using the target tag to open a new page. Especially if a student is using a public PC on campus and when an external link is opened in the same browser and takes you away from your login – presenting a security/privacy issue. Why? The student walks away and the next user opens facebook and the previous user’s account is still active. The reason is- a new target window wasn’t an option and privacy is at risk. That is what we are protecting in our libraries, right?

    What about some of the new technology out there like Google gadgets or other widget tools that are opened in new windows?

    Jacob Nielson may think its confusing.. but it really depends on the situation and context.

    My thoughts..

    (nice blog)

    -Heather.

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