We were having a conversation in the office today about best practices for internal links. The actual question was:
What is the best practices recommendation on whether internal links should be opened in new windows? In other words, if I’m on our site – say one of the newsletter pages – and there are links in the copy to other pages on the site, should the link open in a new window?
Great question, typically when we set internal links to open we have them open in the same window and we have links to other sites (external links) open in new windows. But the discussion got me thinking about best practices versus what we have always done - maybe we do it this way because it is the best practice but I set out to do a little research and see what others were saying about this.
A look at the search results gives you a quick answer that the general opinion (or at least the best optimized general opinions) is not to force new browser windows on a user. I dug in a little more and share some of the reasons and opinions (sources are cited with the inclusion of a link to the original article, you will need to read the whole post to see why I chose to open, or not, in a new window!)
Line 25 gives us the opinions of two different camps but concludes that "in general, opening a new window should be avoided, but is recommended for some situations."
Smashing Magazine author Sven Lennartz is pretty clear on his answer to whether links should open in a new window. "No they shouldn't" is the first line of his article. His opinion is based on the "fundamental principles" of user interface design - "users should be in control of the interface they are interacting with." He also states that consistency of how the interface works is critical.
Juicy Studio concurs. Indicating that it is "rude" to make this decision for visitors. The article also states, "Visitors of your site expect to receive content. They don't expect you to change their home page, add sites to their favorites list, or open links in a new window, no matter how honorable your intentions."
I read beyond these sites and kept digging into the topic and it seems there is a great deal of consistency in the opinion that opening a link in a new window is not appropriate, it breaks the back button, and if the user wants a new window they can make that choice.
If you clicked on any of the links above, you will see that by the end of my little (and not so scientific) research project I changed my mind and allowed all the links to open in the same window. I just wonder though, in doing that did I lose you to a new "shiny object" or did you come back and keep reading?
Let us know as users of sites, not as developers of them, how you feel about this topic by leaving a comment below.
About the Author
Susan LaPlante-Dube, PMG Principal
Susan LaPlante-Dube created PMG in 2002 and acts as one of PMG’s Principals. As a jack-of-all-trades in marketing, she loves digging deep on a topic and finding new ways to spin old ideas. While she would prefer having some high-tech voice software to record all of her blog thoughts instead of having to write them down, she loves the satisfaction of helping her readers learn something new.