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Opening links in new windows

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I know it only seems like a little thing to complain about, but I really hate web designers who design their links to open in new windows. It started annoying me when I had a slow old computer, on which Internet Explorer (IE) took at least 30 seconds to start up. When I clicked on a link that forced a new copy of IE to open, I had to wait 30 seconds before the new page even started loading up.

I started thinking about this a bit more, and discovered that designing sites like this is very annoying for blind and partially sighted users, and for people who aren't used to computers and the internet. The reason for this, is that opening a page in a new window means that the Back button (or the backspace key) doesn't go back to the previous screen, because there is no previous screen. This can very confusing if your visitor didn't know that the page had opened in a new window.

"But I don't want people to leave my site when they view another site", I hear you say. "That's why I open external links in a new window". What a load of nonsense, the best way to prevent people from leaving your site, is to have a well-designed site, with lots of interesting content. Just think of two of the most widely visited sites on the 'net (BBC and Google) - do they force you to open links in new windows? No, they know you'll come back, because they're good sites. I'm not trying to say that my site's brilliant, but if you don't like it, I'm not going to try to trick you into staying longer than you want to.

If somebody likes your site, then they can right-mouse-click on the link and select "Open in new window" or "Open in new tab". However, if you have forced the link to open in a new window, there is no "Open in same window" or "Open in same tab" right-mouse-click option. Fortunately, the latest version of Firefox has an option to prevent links from opening in a new tab.

Anyway, if, despite having read this, you are still going to open links in new windows, then the least you can do is warn people that you're doing so. The easiest way is to state this as part of the link.

This can be done as normal text:
<a href="http://www.bbcnews.com" target="_blank">BBC News Website (opens in new window)</a>
Check out the BBC News Website (opens in new window)

Or using the title attribute (hover over the link for a second):
<a href="http://www.bbcnews.com" target="_blank" title="Opens in new window">BBC News Website (opens in new window)</a>
Check out the BBC News Website

As a final comment, the target="_blank" attribute has been depreciated in HTML 4.01, so isn't actually valid HTML.

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Created on: 07 Mar 2006. Modified on: 07 Mar 2006.
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