Monday, November 3, 2008

New Window or Same Window?

Any time you create a link on a page, you have the option to launch the target page in the same window (the default option) or in a new window. We aren't talking about those obnoxious automatic pop-ups here. We are talking about links the visitor actually clicks on. There seem to be several schools of thought on when it is appropriate to launch a new window.

Some say you should never launch a link in a new window for a couple of reasons:
  • The user can always launch in a new window by choice by holding CTRL when they click the link or by middle-clicking the link with the mouse wheel.

  • By contrast, there is no easy way to make a link coded to launch in a new window launch in the same window. So, you are essentially taking the choice away from the visitor.

I'm not sure I agree with that. For one thing, many users don't know how to launch in a new window. Also, in many cases, a user may want to check out something you are linking to without leaving your site. I like the following rule of thumb, which seems to be the consensus from what I have read:

  • Make internal links (links to stuff on your site) open in the same window.

  • Make external links (links to other sites) open in a different window.

There are some exceptions to the first point. For example, if you are displaying a short form or a Flash piece or something and you want better control over the window like size or toolbar/no toolbar, etc. But for the most part I would think these rules would work.

I'd be curious if anyone agrees/disagrees either from a designer standpoint or from a user's standpoint. Let me know...

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