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RE: Thoughts on links in a new window/tab

From: David Best <davebest@cogeco.ca>
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2015 13:16:02 -0400
To: "'Sarah Horton'" <shorton@paciellogroup.com>, "'Nimisha Joshi'" <nimisha.joshi@northwestern.edu>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000b01d0a20e$cc07a7c0$6416f740$@cogeco.ca>
As a screen reader user I can offer the following comments:
1. Opening Links in a new Window is not an accessibility issue but rather a 
usability concern. Either way does not cause a WCAG failure. Consistency and 
predictability is the best practice. This largely depends upon your user target 
2. Opening Links to other web pages is preferred not to be a new Window. However, 
Documents and External web site pages is helpful if opened in a new Window. When 
working with documents user tend to follow the Close Document function when done 
with the document, which will close the web browser if opened in the same Window. 
I believe PDF and other documents and media should be opened in a new Window. I 
like having External web site Links open in a new Window, as it does not matter 
how far I follow that external resource, as all I need to do is close the Window 
to return back to my original web site location.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sarah Horton [mailto:shorton@paciellogroup.com]
Sent: Monday, June 08, 2015 10:03 AM
To: Nimisha Joshi
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: Thoughts on links in a new window/tab

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:


Hope this helps!


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 17:16:31 UTC

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