April 16, 2004
"Open in new window" considered harmful

Dear maintainer of site that I casually visit from time to time:

Stop Opening New Windows On Every Stinking Hyperlink.

It's supposed to be a hypertext - a collaborative writing and reading experience and you are breaking it by invalidating the back button. Besides, I've got better things to do than closing all the windows you left behind. It's presumptuous of you to assume that your site is the center of my activity and that further links are somehow off topic. I got to you via a hyperlink for crying out loud. And don't believe the "Oohh, your site is great - it's so application like" hype. If there's text to read I would like the opportunity to consider the site as text. Hypertext.
There seems to be an inverse law of importance at play here: The less interesting the site is, the more likely it is to use new windows by default. Profesionally done sites don't do it except in clearly marked areas ("Other links" or similar).

Posted by Claus at April 16, 2004 11:16 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments (post your own)

Hear! Hear!
Using firefox I never open new windows -- I stick to new tabs. New windows really suck.

Posted by: dalager on April 16, 2004 11:57 AM

I don't agree to your points - it's just a matter of habbits. Personally I use to get lost when I follow links, so I always hold down the cmd-key (on Mac) when I click a hyperlink in order to open the page in a new window. Whether you have to close a window or click the back button - it's the same amount of work.

I know I could use tabs but that would add yet another bar to the browser window. I prefer to only have the address bar and the status bar visible.

I even think it's a bad habbit to use the back button for navigation. A website is supposed to provide all necessary means to get around. Only in case of 'emergency' I use the back button ;-)

Posted by: Keld on April 16, 2004 2:34 PM

Ah, but your points actually PROVE my points:
1. ALL the browsers have the ability to "open in new window" built in if desired by client. So if you prefer to not surf, and not read hypertext in the way it was intended, you can - even here on classy.dk where we just surf. There is no reason to do this in the HTML of a page.
2. It is NOT the same amount of work to hit back because I don't have the functionality of the back button at my disposal when opened in a new window. Again the user has no choice your way but has choice my way.
3. You're succumbing to the common fallacy of assuming that websurfers "read sites". I don't. Most people don't. They surf. That's why "back buttons" on websites suck. As you surf from site to site they are never in the same place and obviously they never include the ability to actually LEAVE the site. In contrast the browser web button is always there - and when sites don't suck it always works in the same way.

Posted by: Dee on April 16, 2004 2:44 PM

This is an old discussion and I know most of the arguments (including those of Jakob Nielsen's). I still think it's a matter of habbits and preferrences but I agree that the user should have more than one choice.

I actually READ websites - I just surf (closing windows behind me) in order to find them ;-)

Here are some (more) arguments that might make me consider changing the hyperlink function on my weblog: http://diveintoaccessibility.org/day_16_not_opening_new_windows.html

Until then... have a nice day

Posted by: Keld on April 16, 2004 3:48 PM

I read to - but i read from many places in no particular order. Thanks for the link. Highly useful.

Posted by: dee on April 16, 2004 3:59 PM
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