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Web developers: When adding an external link to your site, do you have it automatically open in a new window (target=_blank) or just let it go?

I tend to just let it go.  I figure that advanced users will pop it in a new window anyhow, and novice users won't have their back button break.  That said, most clients request that all external links open in a new window so that their site can stay open in the background.

What is your thought on this?
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Richard Cummings's profile photoFred San Juan's profile photoGeoffrey Allan Plauché's profile photoBrad Trnavsky's profile photo
22 comments
 
Personally, I can't stand it when a website forces a link to open in a new tab/window. If I want to open a link in a new tab, I'll middle-click to make it do so.

I use an extension in Chrome to limit the number of tabs I can open in a window, because I tend to open too many. When I'm at my limit, these sites that force a new tab cause my browser to spaz out, automatically close the new tab, and produce a warning/reminder dialog popup that I have to click away. I then have to copy the url of the link, paste it into the browser's address bar, and hit enter to leave the offending site and go to the one I wanted to visit. Needless to say, it leaves me with negative feelings about the site I just left, making it less likely that I'll return.

I don't know if I'm atypical in this, however.
 
I generally set them to open in a new tab. It doesn't bother me when people do this especially if I am in the middle of an article. I think you will find people in two camps indifferent (me) and opposed. 
 
I like them to open in a new tab as well. Though I'm not helping you from a Dev's point of view. 
 
External links - new tab / window, I will even do this for items like pdf files (internal or external).

I do get irritated with sites that seemingly open every link (internal / external) in a new tab / window.
 
I most often find myself multi-tasking. If I'm reading an article for example, and find an interesting link within it that I want to read next. I like to hit that, and then go on to finished reading and sharing what I have in front of me first.
Otherwise I have to scroll back up through the whole field of text, and possibly other links, just to find it again. 
 
I always have them open in a new window, just because I've never heard a great reason not to.
 
I wouldn't call myself a web developer, but every time I do create my own links, I definitely use target = blank.  
 
I always make links to other websites open in a new window because you don't want to send visitors to another site with no way back. However, generally I do not make internal links open in a new window. 
 
+Patricia Skinner I think the main reason site owners make links open in a new tab/window is to keep visitors on their own site. If a link opens in the same tab/window, users can always click the back arrow to go back to your site; no need to force your link to open in a new tab/window.
 
I understand that +Geoffrey Allan Plauché and it's sort of what I was saying. Not all visitors who leave will use the back button so it's imperative to maintain a window for your site open if you can. 
 
Let it go. From what I know, forcing a new window is considered bad style.The user can always click "back". And if the user is so comfortable using tabs that clicking "back" irritates him ("why isn't it in a new tab?!!"), it's a fair bet he knows how to open a link in a new tab.
Don S
 
It's not knowing what will happen that's a problem for me.  Don't get me started about PDFs either.
 
I would open a new tab only if the user starts and entirely new flow such as sending him/her to an external site or starting a survey and such. For all other (regular) navigation, open the pages in the same window. Opening a new tab every time is extremely annoying and a waste of resources (on the client/device). 
 
To piggyback on my own comment, everything I've ever seen on this topic has been circumstantial and assumptive, and mostly based on the concept that users should always be in control of this sort of thing. Yet, I've never seen any actual data that suggests that this is a practice that 'normal' users don't like, or that has negative repercussions.

Really, the only objective problem I've seen is that it can jack up your analytics—but the fact that many folks open links in a new window anyway sort of nullifies this issue.
 
Back buttons do not work in all cases because of silent redirects.  You have to check the behavior of the external site if you want back to work.
 
One more nugget: click an external link that's been posted to the very social network we're using to have this discussion. :)
 
I prefer to have my visitors not lose focus on my site when I provide  a link to supplementary info on someone else's page.  ;)
 
I normally "open in new window", but wondered if more "views" could be achieved by doing the opposite. I prefer to keep a reader's focus. 
 
I'm thinking we as designer do this because we can and think it's a better experience, which it is for us because we understand what just happened. I personally add target, most of the time, for external links and documents. I'm betting the masses don't know any different and most likely don't know we even have control to do it, it's just what happens on some links... Most users are led by their computers and do not use computers as a tool like we do. I've watched many users that still don't understand tab browsing and wonder why they can't use their back button to go back. Since bringing tab browsing into the experience also changed things up for the average user. I think tabs are less intrusive but also less obvious. So there may be a case to do a completly new windows vs. tabs...
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