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RE: "Special message to website creators" / RE: "link in new window debate"

From: John Foliot - WATS.ca <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 15:35:37 -0500
To: "W3c-Wai-Ig" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Hello All.

To some of the newer list members who posted via this thread, welcome.

Whew, to think this innocuous little posting from Joe "I have my opinions"
Clark would start a thread this long.  Like Joe, I too have opinions, and if
I may, I would like to summarize and provide some things to think about.

Joe started out by pointing to a Blog which supported his opinion that there
is nothing wrong with opening second (third, forth and maybe even fifth
windows).  He cites the <sarcasm>definitive</sarcasm>

"03nov13. Special message to website creators: enough with the
"outside link opens new window" junk. I can handle it, I'm a big boy

Joe doesn't seem to like or agree with the WCAG Priority 2 Checkpoint: 10.1
"Until user agents allow users to turn off spawned windows, do not cause
pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window
without informing the user."  He now appears to have a concurrence, and
happily pointed out the posting, "...see, I'm right".

As subsequent postings to the list pointed out, some people share his
feelings, others (curiously, the regular users of AT) seem to concur with
the W3C... I guess list members can draw their own conclusions.

For those that are still considering using either the Target attribute
(deprecated in XHTML, except for the Frameset DTD) and/or JavaScript Popup
Windows, may I ask that you consider the following:

1) most users of Assistive Technology (and for this discussion we can focus
on screen readers) prefer *Not* having to deal with multiple browser
windows, *especially* un-announced ones.  It's a spatial orientation
thing... keeping focus on multiple windows is often problematic for blind
users (not to single out any particular group).

This also *may* be an issue for users with cognitive disabilities (remember
the first time your "Back" button didn't work due to a Target="" link?).  My
poor Mum still gets befuddled when this happens, and her only thing is that
she lacks experience and gets nervous around computers.  This kind of
experience just re-enforces her opinion...

Finally, alternative user agents may not support multiple screen windows,
and/or older machines may experience a performance hit if/when running
multiple browser windows.

2) the debate on launching a new browser window (pros and cons) has raged
ever since Netscape 3 introduced the ability to do so back in the 90's.
Being an analogy kinda guy, I always liked to use this one:

If you owned a brick and mortar store, and somebody came into your shop,
would you lock the door and not let them leave until they purchased
something, or at least heard you sales pitch and got a business card?  If
that happened to you, would you have a good feeling or bad feeling about the
shop?  Why then would you want to do so with a web site.  "Locking" them in
seems so counter-productive that it transcends even
usability/accessibility...  Folks, most (all?) browsers have a Back Button,
most if not all also provide a useful "history of visited pages" function.
If you want people to come to your site on multiple occasions, or in some
other way feel that your site is/was of use to them, concentrate on content,
not tricks.  Trust me, if the site has value, they will return (via their
Back Button, History list, or, if you are lucky, by their bookmark).  As an
added benefit, sites with *real* content, compelling and useful, will
generally do better in Search Engine results...

3) related but different department:  JavaScript popups.  Here again issues
of spatial disorientation can be a problem.  But another thing has also
happened.  Compliments of our good friends that first sold "SpyCams" the JS
Popup has become endemic on the web... so much so that both User Agents
(Netscape 7.x/Mozilla, Opera, others) have built in "blockers" which prevent
these types of unsolicited Popups; there are also third party tools which
achieve the same functionality (the Google Bar, Popup Cop, Popup Stop, and
numerous others).  Not all have the same amount of "granularity" in being
able to differentiate between requested popups and forced popups... some
simply disallow their use.  The W3C WCAG Guideline states,"...Until user
agents allow users to turn off spawned windows...".  Many will argue that we
are there now; some UA's do allow the ability to turn them off, and users
are doing so in droves.  Why then would you attempt to swim upstream?
Surely creative people can come up with alternative ways of providing the
same type of functionality using alternative methods... (I've come up with a
few myself... interested parties should enquire off list).

So... if I've not convinced you on the merits of avoiding popups and new
browser windows, I guess you've already made up your mind.  Too bad.  For
while popup help windows are easy for a developer to implement, they exclude
some or at least make things harder for some users.  If a client *really*
wants to launch outside links in external windows, I guess it's easier to do
than trying to convince them why they shouldn't.  Arguments that these
abilities provide for a "richer" web experience however will fall on deaf
ears here...


John Foliot  foliot@wats.ca
Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
http://www.wats.ca   1.866.932.4878 (North America)
Received on Tuesday, 18 November 2003 15:35:39 UTC

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