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Should Links from Your Blog Open in a New Window? Reader Opinions

Two weeks ago I asked readers for their opinion on whether external links on your blog should Open in a New Window?

The conversation that resulted in the question was fascinating with 129 comments left (so far).

Today I reread the full conversation and tallied up the results and was a little surprised by the end results. Last time I saw this type of debate (in a forum) there was a resounding feeling that links should not open in new windows – however in this conversation the split was much more even with strong arguments for both ways of approaching links.

In fact the end result ended up coming out in favor of opening links in a new window.

Picture 1-4

I should note that there was about 5% of respondents who I excluded from these results because they either didn’t express a direct opinion or gave some sort of an ‘it depends’ response.

Thanks to everyone for participating in the discussion. If you’ve not had your say yet you can still comment on the original post.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Dan Cole says:

    I’m surprised by these results. I would have though that you would always want links to open in the same window. I always right click and open in a new windows if I want to keep my current window alive. Other wise I just click and leave that page.

  2. Darren: surprised by the results? Try asking the same question only to web site USERS, not web developers, content creators or bloggers.

  3. Sly says:

    The graph says it all. I was part of that 54% and apparently others agree. That survey was very close though; it was basically half-and-half.

  4. Chris M says:

    That is really really interesting!

  5. bob cobb says:

    I changed my links to open in the same window and had a ton of people contact me to change it back. I’ve never had any complaints about the links opening in a new window though.

  6. “Try asking the same question only to web site USERS, not web developers, content creators or bloggers.”

    I don’t get how including those groups could skew the results, they are all users as well.

  7. fatgadget says:

    Hi Darren

    Since reading the original article, I have now changed mine to open in the same window.

    Interesting that the stats came out with that, very close, but I think I will keep my blog as I have it set up now and have the links opening in the same window.

  8. Dan Cole says:

    “I don’t get how including those groups could skew the results, they are all users as well.”

    Well as a website owner you want visitors to stay, which means keeping your pages on screen.

  9. I have to confess being surprised by the results! For anyone that changes to opening in new window, it will be interesting to see changes in their page views and time on site stats.

  10. Lincoln says:

    If we were to delve further and ask WHY the slight majority want links opening in a new window, I wonder how many would say, “Because I don’t want people leaving my blog!” In that vein the results make more sense.

    When considering links I ask myself, “How would I react to a link opening in a new window if I were just a user?” Personally, I’d hate it. If I want to open a new tab (window) then I will middle click or right click top open a new tab and do it. I don’t want my decision to be made for me just because the author of the blog I visited wanted to boost the stickiness of his site.. :-P

  11. Rob O. says:

    I understand that having your links open other windows could be seen as kinda like forcing your preferences upon others and so it might seem like a spammy practice. And sure enough, I got into the habit of doing so primarily because I was kinda fixated on the whole “stickiness” aspect of my site.

    I’m still concerned with trying to keep my visitors at my site as long as they care to be there, but my focus has shifted a little too. Much of my intended audience (family and older friends of the family) consists of very, um, unsophisticated computer users. With lesser-experienced visitors, it’s entirely likely that they don’t know how to open links in another tab – and it’s not even necessarily a safe assumption that they have a tabbed-enabled browser.

    So I prefer to have external links open in a new browser window. However, I do make a concerted effort to include a note in the TITLE attribute of the link code to indicate that the link will open in a new browser window. Hopefully, this little extra bit of info – subtle as it may be – that I’m providing will prevent some frustration for those who don’t like links that spawn new windows…

    Adding the TITLE info in your blog posts is a little extra effort, but it’s become second-nature to me after having done it for the past 5-6 months.

  12. Tokio says:

    I’m actually surprised! When I was reading through comments before it seemed that a majority did not like links being forced to open in a new window.

    Though I wonder if it’s different between webmasters/bloggers and just readers/surfers.

  13. I’ve just briefly read some of the comments and I wonder if the decision should be determined by the audience at which the site is targeted. Yes, we are all internet users, however, we are not all at the same level of proficiency.

    For the record, I do set my links to open a new window so that the reader doesn’t lose their spot. Some may become annoyed by this; but I’m thinking of all the times I’ve gotten pulled away from an article I really wanted to read, then couldn’t find my way back.

    I suppose the best thing to do would be to wait until my traffic warrants asking my visitors what they’d like, then give it to them.

  14. I love this survey-from-comments methodology. After reading the comments on this (and on the faking comments post), this was the first question I had: what was the breakdown of opinions.

    I wish more surveys were done like this: First read the actual opinions, have a day to form your own based on the arguments given, THEN see the statistics. If only ‘real’ surveys could be linked to the raw data and back again.

    Thank you for compiling this. I’ve learned a lot.

  15. I love this survey-from-comments methodology. After reading the comments on this (and on the faking comments post), this was the first question I had: what was the breakdown of opinions.

    I wish more surveys were done like this: First read the actual opinions, have a day to form your own based on the arguments given, THEN see the statistics. If only ‘real’ surveys could be linked to the raw data and back again.

    Thank you for compiling this. I’ve learned a lot.

  16. Lance says:

    I think that was participate by bloggers, normal internet user may be
    give different result then. hmmm..

  17. Jeremy asks: “I don’t get how including those groups could skew the results, they are all users as well.”

    I think the distinction being made is between “ordinary, everyday users” (like your mom, perhaps) and users who are more web-savvy (like web developers etc)

  18. I’m new to blogging(since February) but I kept my old habits of an Internet user. I like a new window, or tab(Firefox) in my case, because I can focus on the current content. I do the same with my blogs now.

    I did not expect this result. Maybe once more people switch to IE7 and get used to tab browsing, the result would change in a year or so.

    The question would be whether external links on your blog should Open in a New Tab? ;)

  19. pearl says:

    Really Interesting.. Its funny, I was actually thinking about this last night! and I somehow always opt for the new window! As a blogger, I want my site to stay open on the user’s screen and as a user too, I wouldn’t want to lose the original site!

  20. Peter Cooper says:

    Opening a new window/tab by default makes no sense on a proper browser (that is, not IE 6) because middle clicking opens in a new tab anyway and then you expect left clicking to be an instant transition in the same window. If it doesn’t, it becomes hard to manage.

  21. Baz L says:

    New windows are a no no for me. I cut that problem out early. So whatever has to happen is gonna happen in a new TAB. But the results are strange. There are basically only two sources of these results:

    Regular Users: Like things to work the way they are supposed to work. You click a link, it opens in the same window.

    Power Users (myself included): We really hate it when a computer (or web developer) tries to control our actions. We know what is supposed to happen, and more importantly, we know what to do to get desired behavior. So I’m thinking, this group would also like links to open in the same window, because if we didn’t want them there, we know how to induce the alternative.

    I, myself, rarely open links with a regular click anyway. Always that beautiful mouse wheel button. I think that opening a link in the same window kills the flow of what I’m already reading, but I’d never want a web designer to make that decision for me.

    My 2 cents.

    Baz L
    Day In The Life of Baz

  22. I tend to always have my blog links open in a new window, with the exception of Clickbank links. From what I understand, opening those links in a new window can break it and I don’t want to take the chance on lose a commission.

  23. Michael says:

    I’ll tell you why my opinion was what it was. When I surf the net some times I want things open in a new window sometimes I don’t, I’ll decide by ctrl+clicking on links. I would rather let myself decide then the web dev when I surf other websites do why would I do it differently on my site?

  24. I’m not too surprised by the results I was one of the 54% I don’t choose to have my screen open to another window because I’m trying to force them to stay on my website I do it because I have a fair amount of readers that have no clue about the back button.

    My casual internet users prefer having the browser open in a new window.

  25. I agree with what Steve said, tabbed browsing changes this result significantly. Seeing as tabbed browsing is the way of the future, I think a lot of us designers/bloggers should pay attention to the transition.

    Personally, if I site opens links in a new tab it makes it significantly easier for my reading style. On sites like engadget, I’ll read through doing left-click>>new tab on all of the links so that I can continue reading and afterwards visit the other sites.

    A lot of it does depend on the type of user visiting your site, but I prefer it when links open in a new window.

    – Mason

  26. Rob O. says:

    Peter & Michael,

    You guys are making some assumptions about the expertise or sophistication level of your readers that *may* not be terribly realistic.

    I’ll betcha my next paycheck that more than half of my regulars either aren’t yet using a tab-enabled browser or don’t know the wheel-clicking technique to open a link in a new tab.

    Heck, I work in an IT department and still have to teach coworkers about using Ctrl-Enter to stub out the “www.” and “.com” parts of an URL. These are professionals in the computer field! And you don’t even want me to tell you how many of these folks don’t even know what a “blog” is. So, given that even IT staffers are this far behind the curve, I’m not willing to take much for granted about the average casual surfer’s abilities…

  27. Suzanne says:

    As someone who’s half computer-literate my vote was going to be to have the link open in a new window. I had dial-up and it used to really bug me to have the link open a new page in the midst of my article — I would follow more links after that and couldn’t get back to my original article. It was so slow in the first place and I had to really want that article to go back.

    As a matter of fact, reading the comments I discovered I didn’t have to go through all that aggravation in the first place and can right click on a link and open it in a new window (I said I was semi-computer literate!) That works for me. I just wanted to control my experience.

    I’ve had DSL for 10 days and I’ve visited Problogger and many other sites and learned a lot. It does make a difference whether users or computer professionals are visitors to your web site. We are not only likely to have less knowledge of our own computers and software, but my guess would be we’re more likely to be the ones without the fast computers, connections, and software options of professionals or savvy computer users. But hey, we like to read your stuff, too!

    I enjoy the exchange of ideas and really appreciate the tip on the easy way to open a link in a new window.

  28. Jason says:

    Interesting… I personally like for links to open in a new window since my sites are more like an “inter net” with a ton of outgoing links. On most of my sites I have links in the content open in a new window.

  29. Meg says:

    I’m truly surprised the results were so close. I’m a big fan of same window, although when I started blogging I could never understand why most bloggers seem to do this, and I used a new window/tab. From a visitor perspective I definitely like to make the choice. In terms of the “unsophisticated user” I think you’re more likely to confuse them by forcing a new window.

  30. MJ Ray says:

    All these “my readers don’t know how to use a back button” comments are amazing:

    Firstly, if the idea of the back button confuses them, they’ll probably run their browser full-screen and won’t notice that your site opened a new window: they still won’t be able to access your site again, until they’re finished surfing and try to close the internet, then get surprised that your page has hijacked their computer (and I’m not joking – I’ve heard a scared user say that).

    Secondly, if your readers really don’t know about the back button, why not explain it to them? They’ll thank you for it and may even remember you more fondly!

    On the 54% of responses said “new window” – well, over 90% of car designers seem to think a three-quarter-size spare tyre is a good design choice and they’re wrong too!

  31. Sue says:

    MJ Ray, I like your reply. It says it all. Most of my readers, at least on the one blog, are older, retired, and want those links to open up in the same window, without being “hijacked.” They may not have the fastest computers,and may be using Win98. Too many windows open in that situation will bring their computer to its knees. If I have a link to a pdf file, it says right in the post (and in the title) that it will open a new window.
    And I have been on poorly coded sites where every internal link opens in a new window. That is the most irritating thing, and I won’t go back to a site that does that.
    If all browsers were tabbed, and there was a way to code it so it would open up in a new tab, I’d go that way. But until then, it’s all in the same window for me, internal or external.
    And if your site is good, they’ll have bookmarked it anyway. So no need to force anyone to stick around.

  32. Karen W. says:

    I agree with those who say it depends on your user base. If the great majority of visitors tend to be more net savvy than opening in the same window is probably your best bet but if you’re dealing with an older, non-internet savvy crowd I would go with the new window.

    I’m currently working on 4 sites/blogs: 2 will be open in the same window because I believe the majority of my visitors will tend toward the more savvy side and 2 will be open in a new because I believe the opposite.

    When the sites are up and running for a bit if I get complaints or suggestions than of course I will be open to change.

  33. tallfreak says:

    It only makes sense that bloggers would want links to open up in a new window. That way readers won’t forget to comment after they read what’s on the linked page.

  34. Leo Dimilo says:

    I personally like a new window opened up but then again the tabs function make opening new windows a breeze. If I am reading an article with multiple embedded links, alot of times I will queue them up to take a look as I get through the post

  35. Like I said in my previous comment and also my blog article about this situation. I am surprised but not surprised.

    Most web designers know links should open in the same window but obviously the knowledge is not known to everyone and seeing since the rise of the web blog and myspace they probably do not know of certain web standards.

  36. Vijeesh says:

    The ‘Back’ button is one of the most used buttons in the browser. Keeping that in mind, opening an external link in the same window is preferable.
    Readers may find ‘new links in new windows’ very annoying. And that is not what a writer would want to do.

  37. Russ says:

    New windows are the most annoying thing a webmaster can do. If a visitor wants to open the link in another page they can do it with a simple right click. If they think your site is valuable then they will go back, if not then you have to improve your content.

  38. pelf says:

    I asked the same question on my blog not too long ago, and my handful of readers wanted links to open in new windows, just like I do! My own argument is that I do not want to be distracted as I am reading an article.

  39. Joe says:

    After reading Darren’s original post on the topic and reading many replies, I changed all of my links to open in the same window.

    I am generally annoyed with pop-ups and new windows as a reader and since I’m the only one reading my blog anyway, I figured I may has well just please myself.

    Hmm, that might not have come out right.

  40. Mike Panic says:

    I use open in new window for external links, open in same window for internal links.

    That said, I have Firefox setup to open any “new window” link in a new tab, so for me as a user, it doesn’t really matter.

  41. AskaX says:

    I prefer open page in new window as I set my browser to open in new tab, I was so lazy to right click and open in new tab.. while reading interesting articles

  42. Bret says:

    I’m split on this question. I see both sides but have decided that on my blog links open in the same window because if someone wants a link to open in a new window, most know how to “force” that to happen. On the other hand, if a visitor doesn’t want a link to open in a new window, there is no way to “force” it from not doing so. I think opening in the same window gives the visitor the most control over their experience at a blog which is what I try to give them.

    BTW: Thanks for the taking the time to count up the responses and post the results.

  43. redwall_hp says:

    Booo! I prefer them opening in one window.

    Anyway, here’s what I do:

    I just middle-click to open new tabs. In fact, I set Firefox to open new windows in new tabs instead. If someone puts a target=”_blank” on a link, it just opens in a new tab. :)

  44. Justin says:

    Personally, I always setup links on my blog to open in new windows. That way if someone doesnt like reading what they clicked on, all they have to do is close it out and return to mine, instead of hitting the back button. I also agree with Redwall_hp, that when im looking around, I also middle-click, for the same reason that I mention.

  45. Eric says:

    I’m with the crowd saying they’d like to see links in a new window. I try to code all mine as target=”_blank”.

  46. Keith says:

    Internal links – same window
    External links – new window

  47. Delores says:

    Thanks so much for the poll. I always give my links the target=”_blank” code because I hate losing my place from where I started when I don’t get a new window for external links. Plus, I don’t want anyone to veer away from my web page either. :-)
    Too bad we don’t have a target=”_blanktab” code option now with Internet Explorer 7. That would make things so much easier and less bulky.
    Thanks again!

  48. Todd says:

    I agree with Keith above … if it’s a link to something else in my blog, I open it in the same window. If it’s a link that goes somewhere else, I use target=_blank. I’ll admit that part of the reason is that I want people to come back to read more of my blog. But, opening things in a new window is also the way that I surf … 90% of the time, I right click and open a link in a new window.

  49. Joe Audette says:

    My opinion is that we should educate users that browsers give them complete control to open links in a new window and never force links to open in a new window.
    I think what the results show is that many users do expect links to open in a new window but they have come to expect this because this is what they have been conditioned to expect. What started out as a cheesy way to keep people on our sites has over time become a norm. We’ve simply hypnotized the users that they need us to open the page in a new window for them. Should we perpetuate a bad practice just because people have become used to it? I think not, lets move past it.

    Its better for the web if users learn the simple fundamental navigation techniques common to modern web browsers. If we think we have users who are confused by the links not opening in a new window why not put a little tip there to educate the user (right click link and choose open in new window).
    Its a fundamental tenet of usability that the user should be in control. Lets not perpetuate and standardize the bad practice of automatically opening links in new windows.

    Just my 2 cents,

    Joe

  50. I agree with Keith.

    Internal links – same window
    External links – new window