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Re: Thoughts on links in a new window/tab

From: Sarah Horton <shorton@paciellogroup.com>
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2015 10:02:51 -0400
Cc: "w3c-wai-ig@w3.org" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-Id: <E57723F1-AE54-4BF4-B22F-26B1CDA5DC82@paciellogroup.com>
To: Nimisha Joshi <nimisha.joshi@northwestern.edu>
Nimisha, I strongly recommend against opening links in a new tab or window for many reasons having to do with usability and accessibility. I could go on and on :) but here are two main reasons:

User control: People who prefer links to open in a new tab or window can elect to do so on their own. When sites are coded to open links in new tabs/windows, that functionality is not optional, and people cannot NOT open links in a new tab or window. I have conducted numerous usability studies where the coded-in behavior of opening links in a new tab/window has completely derailed users from successfully completing tasks. 

User expectations: The Back button (or keyboard key) at this point is muscle memory for many people. If users follow a link that opens in a new window and want to go back and choose another option, they cannot use that feature because the previous page is not in the history for the new tab/window. They’ll try and nothing will happen. It’s not a good idea to mess with reflexive behavior if you want to provide a good user experience.

In other words, the risk is much greater than the benefit.

NNGroup has written a lot about this based of their research with users. Here are a couple articles:

http://www.nngroup.com/articles/open-new-windows-for-pdfs/
http://www.nngroup.com/articles/top-10-mistakes-web-design/

Hope this helps!

Best,
Sarah


Sarah Horton
UX Strategy Lead
The Paciello Group
603 252-6052 mobile

> On Jun 2, 2015, at 9:56 AM, Nimisha Joshi <nimisha.joshi@northwestern.edu> wrote:
> 
> Hi All,
> 
> I am writing to get some thoughts on opening links in a new tab/window. I am aware of the accessibility guidelines, however I am curious to know the thoughts of this groups. Most of our clients want to open their documents and external site links in a new tab. 
> 
> Thanks,
> Nimisha
> 
Received on Monday, 8 June 2015 14:03:17 UTC

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