Opening links in new windows

Smashing Magazine, while I generally love, wrote and published an article regarding links and whether or not you should have them automatically open in new windows rather than within the site. {Article Link} They give a strong "no" stating that it should be the choice of the user, not the developer, when you open a new window. However, I say if it's an external link you SHOULD open it in a new window. It's called "surfing", meaning they're taking a peak at another website - they probably will want to stay on your site and pushing them off is like the sales person who is just there to get a cheap sale then shoves you out the door at first oportunity.

It's also horrible as far as a web owner goes. What if you walked into a grocery store and the first thing the clerk did was tell you to go to the store down the street.

"Hi, welcome to Pete's Grocery! You probably want to go to Joe's Grocery ... it's great!"

Um ... ok, that's not a very effective way to keep your customers and viewers happy, right? Sure, having links is a great way to show people new and exciting things - but you want them to stay around to see and read and enjoy more on your web site. By keeping everything in one window means you're assuming they're

  1. Web savvy
  2. Will remember to come back to your web site
  3. Remember your web site at all.

Unless they're repeat visitors, don't count on people who just happen by your site for the first time to remember who you are. Unless you have something they REALLY want and can't live without it's pretty much a guarantee that you won't see any return traffic if you let people wander off.

I think one of the things that bothers me is how fast people are just eating this up. So many people are taking this article as the Word of God without really doing any follow up thought. I see many "Oh, now I know better thanks!" comments that are just ... sad. No, you don't know better. You know the opinion of one magazine. Go read what W3C says about it or look around and see what other designers are doing.

No, they shouldn’t. At first glance the decision to open links in new windows or not depends on the given site and the preferences of its visitors. Visitors of the sites with heavy linking are more willing to have links opened in new windows than open dozens of links in new windows manually. Visitors of less-heavy-linkage-sites are more likely to open some specific link in new window to remain on the site and continue to browse through it afterwards. However, this is not true.

They think that a majority of web surfers are savvy enough to middle click or ctrl+click or right click a link to open in a new window if they want. Sorry - but I would say a vast majority are just casual browsers who really don't know the tricks of the web.

I just get all ... snarky ... when people try to force some compliance down my throat as if it's the will of the people. It's the will of a small group.

And yes, I said snarky. It's my word ... MINE!


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