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  1. #26
    Mouse catcher silver trophy Stevie D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stomme poes View Post
    User testing at one of my old jobs showed that not using the target attribute on links to PDFs was BAD usability.

    Every single user we tested on was a Windows user, and their regular browser was IE. They expected a link to a downloadable file to be separate from the web pages, every single time. When the users went to close the PDF, they closed the browser, which was never ever what they intended: they intended to close a separate window holding a PDF. When the 10th person accidentally closed their browser and looked all surprised, we had to fix the problem.
    I'm amazed. I am a lifelong 'Doze user and at work I have no choice but to use IE, although at home I use everything but. I can't remember how long ago it was that I encountered a situation where IE opened a PDF natively rather than spawning Adobe Reader as a stand-alone application. Lots of years, at the very least. But either way, there are lots of sites out there that don't put target="_blank" on PDF links ... were these people really such slow learners that they got caught out each and every time they came across one? But then again, most people have target="_blank" configured to open a new tab rather than a new window, so surely these people would still end up closing down their entire browser session if IE was running the PDF through a plug-in?

    Perhaps the solution here is to change your server settings so that PDFs are downloaded as Open/Save files rather than viewable, and that way people will always get the stand-alone PDF Reader, so won't have any room for confusion.

    Back in the day, long long ago, you could type "target blank evil" into your search engine of choice and find several pages worth of diatribe against new windows. But since most of the world has already moved on the tabs, there's a whole generation who only know new windows as Javascript popups. The anti-target posts have dwindled as fewer people use them in the first place.
    It doesn't matter whether the new window/tab is spawned by target="_blank" or Javascript, it's equally unacceptable either way. Perhaps JS is worse, because the new context is often even more badly-behaved than the old-fashioned way – and the main reason for that is that the perpetrator thinks he knows what size window you're going to get because he's specified it in the JS ... but then when the browser opens a new tab instead, it's just the standard full-screen size, so often looks horribly wrong. Not to mention the times when it opens in the background, so the poor user is left stumbling around wondering why the link doesn't appear to have done anything.

  2. #27
    SitePoint Wizard Stomme poes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevieD
    were these people really such slow learners that they got caught out each and every time they came across one?
    We used the same machines that were available to our testers (mostly office gophers), but there were no other tabs open, and that may have been part of it. If there was more than one tab open, the browsers would usually ask first. Instead, when testing we'd have a browser open with no other tabs and Google or our company home page as the main page, before taking them to the test site. Fresh start and all that.

    No most people only closed their browser once, but I was testing by having them go through a list of tasks, and a few of those tasks you could look for a PDF with more information. Usually they only hit that bug once, but we tested several gophers and a few of our office ladies.

    Quote Originally Posted by StevieD
    But then again, most people have target="_blank" configured to open a new tab rather than a new window...
    The office machines we used had usually IE7 or 8 (only the secretary downstairs still had IE6), and I'm not certain but I didn't think that was an option? On my browsers that's already the default; I don't think I've ever had to explicitly check it.

    The gophers used the computers at work but didn't generally sit at someone's workstation long enough to set up their own thing. The office ladies did but I don't know how much they customised them. The desktop insurance software they used opened all stuff up in new windows (not via a browser) so they may have also just done everything with new windows (?).

    Quote Originally Posted by StevieD
    Perhaps the solution here is to change your server settings so that PDFs are downloaded as Open/Save files rather than viewable, and that way people will always get the stand-alone PDF Reader, so won't have any room for confusion.
    That would have been a good idea, but we didn't think of it at the time.

  3. #28
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stomme poes View Post
    I disagree.

    User testing at one of my old jobs showed that not using the target attribute on links to PDFs was BAD usability.
    It is up to the browser owner whether they install a plugin for displaying PDFs in the browser or not. It has nothing whatever to do with what operating system or browser is being used. Quite simply if they have a plugin installed because they want PDFs to display in the browser then PDFs will display in the browser and you shouldn't mess with it by adding a target and if they don't have a PDF plugin installed then their browser will download the file and open it locally and the target will make no difference.

    The PDF is opening in the same window because the browser owner has specifically configured it that way and your supplying a target is overriding your visitor's specific choice - since the default is to download and open in a separate program.

    Anyway, right clicking on the link to the PDF where a plugin is installed will give the choice of opening in the same window, a new tab, a new window or downloading and opening in a separate PDF reader - supplying a target reduces these options by one.
    Stephen J Chapman

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