Tags: browsers, preferences, readers November 7, 2008 External links in a new window?
Since the early days of web-publishing I have been adding a target="_blank" attribute to all the external links I create on my websites. This has partly been to keep readers from 'forgetting' about my site after leaving through an interesting link, but mostly because my personal browsing preference is to open most links in new tabs so I can complete reading that page later. It makes sense to me, so it should to everyone else too, right?
Maybe not, so have googled a bit to find out other peoples preferences on this topic, and while the opposition to forced new windows appear very vocal, these polls surprisingly shows that a majority actually prefers links opening in a new window, especially if it is indicated on the link that it is so.
From the debate around that poll and on other sites I came across, the opposition to forced new windows generally take the stance that users are not ignorant and should be allowed to choose for themselves, since browsers make this very easy nowadays. Adherents to forced new windows on the other hand claim that many people hardly even know about tabbed browsing, or even the back button (!), so helping them discover this is a good thing. Besides those who already are in know are likely to open the link in a new tab anyway, since that is the reasonable way to browse for experienced netizens.
I would tend to agree most with the latter statements, but I'm still considering to get rid of my forced new-window links as a token of good faith to my readers. Well and also because Jakob Nielsen is against it, but what do you think?