Can we please please please stop using the target="new" attribute in links? I don’t want a new window. If I do want a new window, then I’ll right-click and use the “Open link in new window” command. But I don’t want you deciding that I must want a new window, just because you don’t want me taking the oh-so-horrid step of actually (gasp) leaving your site!

If you’ve got a good site, I’ll use the “back” button and come back. If you don’t have a good site, I’m not likely to come back no matter what the circumstances. But constantly forcing every link to open in a new window, taking control of how I browse away from me, you’re a lot more likely to piss me off to the point where I won’t come back than if you just let me browse normally.

Thank you for your time.

(And on that note, yes, I know that clicking on someone’s name if they leave a comment here does the exact thing I’m bitching about. I haven’t figured out how to get around that yet. If I can, you can be damn sure that I’m turning that little “feature” off.)

Update: Usability Guru Jakob Nielsen also hates this practice, so I’m not alone. Opening new windows for links breaks items one and two of his Top 10 new mistakes of web design article. So there. Bleah. :P

17 thoughts on “Pet Peeves

  1. Right! I agree completely. We all know where the back button is. I used to use target=”new” on my own site, but have since changed my bad behavior…thanks for sharing your pet peeve.

  2. You know, you are right…

    I am going to remove them from my site this weekend if I have a chance. Otherwise by the next … and wont use them on further posts

    I’ll just use the Open in a New window javascript…

    Old habits die hard, I have intedned to fix that over there, but have been too lazy/busy/stupid to do so :(

  3. I recently removed all of my target attributes on my domain. I, too, would love to learn an easy way to remove this ‘feature’ from my individual archives. I had thought it would be as simple as removing the target= from the template, but no.

  4. Over in the comments at John’s site, Nurse Ratched said this:

    “I like when sites have links that open in a new window. It saves me trouble and using the Back button when I want to leave a comment or read the next entry. On the other hand, I don’t want 42 new windows, so on my site, I compromised and have one named window that I open all external links in. I figure that should be a reasonable compromise. Whaddaya think?”

    Here’s my reply (posted in my comment thread instead of John’s because of the length):

    Worse, IMHO, to tell the truth.

    To start with, if you like links opening in new windows, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that — you have that option at any time, via right-clicking and choosing “Open link in new window”.

    Those of us that don’t like new windows, however, aren’t given a choice. No matter what, if target=”new” (or target=”blank”, or target=”namedWindow”) is used, we’re getting a new window.

    The reason why I find your implementation (using a single named window for all external links) worse is that it has the potential to break navigation even more than either of the other methods.

    Picture this: someone is browsing through your site with their browser window set to full screen. They click on an external link, and suddenly a new window pops up. Okay, fine, maybe they like that, maybe they don’t, but at least now they know what’s going to happen. So, they click back on your site (bringing the full-screen window to the foreground, and hiding the new window), and keep reading.

    As they read, they see another link (or maybe two, or three) that looks interesting. No problem — since they know that those will open up new windows, they click on them, each time bringing your site back to the foreground, with the expectation that when they’re done with your site, they’ll be able to close the window and have three or four windows waiting for them.

    Unfortunately, by directing all external links into a single named window, you’ve broken even that functionality. Each time they clicked on another link, that destination replaced the previous information in that window. When they finish with your site and expect to see three or four windows of information they were interested in, instead, they’ll have just one, with the last link they clicked.

    In the end, using links normally gives everyone the option to browse however they want — same window, new window, new tabs, whatever. Using target=”(whatever)” breaks this and is most definitely a Bad Thing™.

  5. Oh I feel better now… I have hundreds of pages on my site and not one single page opens in a new window. I just assumed everybody knew what the back button was for.

  6. Hi Michael,
    Firstly, thanks for linking to my site in the group blog. Secondly, what you said about ‘not having a choice…’ is a damn fine argument against setting links to open in new windows.I was going to request a default ‘open links in target=”_blank”‘ feature in the upcoming TP survey but you’ve succeeded in changing my mind :)

  7. Michael-Agreed. When designing an interface, the designer should avoid anything that causes an unexpected result for the user, and opening a new window is definitiely an unexpected result. In the past, I have appended links that out of necessity didn’t open in the same browser window with something like “pop” or “new window,” so at least the user has a warning as to what’s going to happen when they click the link.

  8. Michael,
    To tell you the truth, I’ve been using a tabbed browser so long that it didn’t occur to me a visitor would be disappointed to find I didn’t open a new window every time s/he clicked a link. Wouldn’t s/he know when each external link clicked didn’t pop up in front as a new window that that wasn’t happening? At least if s/he has been using the web for more than a week, I would think so.

    I can certainly see where a choice is preferable, and I would much prefer having a choice over having to discover the hard way that some slow-loading site opens new pages in the same window, and I’m going to have to wait (again) if I hit the back button to read more or leave a comment. Stop going to the slow-loading sites? Sure, except that even my favorites have slow days sometimes.

    I think I’ll look into the script that John mentions on his site that enables loading of just external links in (a) new window/s. If I can implement it so everyone has the option of loading links the way they want, then great.

  9. ::blush:: Wondering silently how many of the offending tags I’ve scattered about various older pages. I think I got in the habit because I prefer having things open in new windows, not realizing how heavy-handed I was being with visitors by not giving them a choice. I try to pay attention to Nielson’s usability thoughts . . . so I’d better shape up.

  10. Wouldn’t s/he know when each external link clicked didn’t pop up in front as a new window that that wasn’t happening? At least if s/he has been using the web for more than a week, I would think so.

    Wouldn’t it be nice? Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way over the years to take very seriously something my dad told me once…

    You will never lose betting on human stupidity.


  11. Your dad had a point. BTW, I got that script that I mentioned, and have done some customization. Hopefully, I’ll have the option available in the next few days for visitors to open all links however they want without hassle.

  12. Apparently I missed this rant last year and got refereced because I’d asked why the links listing didn’t open a new window.

    I am one of those who believes that if someone is led “offsite” it should either popup a javascript which says “you are leaving this site” or – preferably – opens the offsite link in a new window. It’s just as easy to use command-W to close a new window as it is to use right-click or command-click to open a new window so I don’t see any difference in the number of steps.

    And, since a lot of referenced offsite links do NOT give the HREF when one is reading the page (oh, sure, one can look at the status window, but isn’t that an extra step too?) then it seems to me that it’s a favor to open the offsite link in a new window since it’s basically an unknown link. On the other hand, if the link is referenced with an actual URL in brackets – then the user should have a real clue as to where he/she is being sent.

    My preference is to provide “target equals new” when I refer someone offsite as well as to provide the same new window when I’m using a self-referential URL which is embedded.

    Yes, it’s personal preference. Just as is my distaste for tabbed browsing. I don’t want anymore “windows” open than those I choose and a tab-enabled browser is no better to me than Windows extra instances of the same browser showing in the task bar – it’s not helpful and though it slows down screen clutter it doesn’t fit my work habits – which admittedly have been developed over the last 11 years since the first instance of Mosaic on the Mac.

    It’s true, I’m a Mac user, so I never even think about such things as a single program occupying the entire screen – which may explain why most Windows users don’t ever really multitask – they’ve never been introduced to the concept of overlapping windows in the same program or different program windows overlapping.

    But, thanks, Michael, at least now I know why your preferences don’t match my work habits and had already become used to command-clicking on any link on your site.

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