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  1. #1
    SitePoint Guru
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    Arrow method used link to external pages?

    Hi -

    I was just wondering what method others use to link to external webpages. Do you simply use the <a href=""> tag and have the visitor leave your site, or do you use the 'launch new window' method <a href="" target="new">? What about using the frame approach, where a little top or bottom bar has a back button to your site? Is it merely preference?

    Which do you prefer? What is better for visitor experience? When I visit a site, I don't like a new window launching for each external link I click on, but as a webmaster I can understand wanting to keep the visitor at your site.

    Josh

  2. #2
    SitePoint Columnist Skunk's Avatar
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    Keeping visitors on your site is a duff argument. If the site is good, they'll come back. Opening links in new windows is terrible for accessibility and can be very irritating (I hate it when sites open things in new windows as it both breaks my back button and over-rides my preference for keeping things in tabs in Mozilla). Sites that open links in a frame are even worse - I like to have the URL of the page I am viewing available and opening things in frames stops this. It can also annoy the sites that you are linking to.

    The <a> tag is the single most important HTML tag by far - you have nothing to lose by using it properly.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Member ajw93's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Skunk
    If the site is good, they'll come back. Opening links in new windows is terrible for accessibility and can be very irritating.

    The <a> tag is the single most important HTML tag by far - you have nothing to lose by using it properly.
    What he said.
    For my part, I never use a new window unless I disclaim it first. On external websites I have done I have never had reason to do this; on the intranet at my office new windows are only used for tutorial pages that have frames in them.
    Also, on my work intranet I have taken to just marking external links (both to the outside web and to intranets for other offices in our firm). I use small images of about 500b; you could use style markup as well. This way folks know that when they click, say, "picture book", they are really going to be on the NY Office's pages and the "back to home" links there will not take them to the "home" they are used to.

    hth
    ajw93

  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast gumnut's Avatar
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    Thumbs up New Window - great idea

    I like opening a new window when i am searching for things and get annoyed when I can't use my 'open in new window' option and then lose the the original page.

    This gives me time to read one page while a prospect link is openning - yes i am on a modem

    And I beleive there are some times when you want pages to open in a new window, eg to give specific details that can be noted, saved or printed such as current exchange rate or address and contact information.

    but apart from that not everyone is an expert surfer so keeping track of where you have been is not as easy as having a couple of extra windows open and it is always easy to close them.

    because of popups most people are good at closing unwanted windows.
    Roger Bunyan
    Sustainability will be achieved by a cultural change, not by technology.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Columnist Skunk's Avatar
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    I agree completely - I open practically every link I click on in a new tab (a Mozilla/Opera feature, similar to a new Window but more convenient). My point is that this should be /my/ decision, not the website's.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Enthusiast slp's Avatar
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    just to be controversial...

    Well, being an Opera user with a slow modem for so long, I'd become very reliant on having many browser windows open at once. And even though I use IE these days (and have a slightly faster modem), the habit remains firmly intact. Coming from this background and because my site uses frames, I thought that opening all external links in new windows would be the way to go (I think most people would agree that opening other sites in your frames is not the greatest thing to do).

    But now that people mention it, I can see how it could be annoying for visitors not to have the choice. Believe it or not though, I actually sometimes find it slightly annoying when sites don't open external links in new windows, in cases when I'd assumed that they would (& hence made the tragic mistake of left-clicking the link). But maybe that's just me. After all, I realise that right-clicking and selecting "open in a new window" is not that difficult to do... Or difficult at all, some might say .

    In summary, on my site I open almost all external links in new windows, and I'm unlikely to change this. (Unless of course, this topic is bombarded by people espousing the merits of opening links in the same window and the evils of doing otherwise, and I'm shamed into changing all my links!)

  7. #7
    SitePoint Guru moonman's Avatar
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    I've always opened other sites in a new window. It used to annoy my when other people did it, but now I've got multi-monitors, I doesn't bother me as much.

  8. #8
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    These are all great responses. Here are some of my thoughts. My site caters to actors (or Joe Average User)... do you think most of my visitors realize that they can right-click and have the link open in a new window??

    Since starting this thread, I have changed the few last remaining external links which used to open a new window to simply click in the current window. (I also use a tracking code to see which links are clicked how often.)

    My feeling was that since I personally don't like having a link open a new window, why would I expose my visitors to it?!

    Thought: Shouldn't there be a way (besides checking out the source code) to determine how the site has a certain link set up? It just seems like a minor useful thing all visitors should be able to find out in a second. Something within the browser that would detect it and let you know if you wanted to find out.

    Josh

  9. #9
    SitePoint Columnist Skunk's Avatar
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    Re: just to be controversial...

    Originally posted by slp
    In summary, on my site I open almost all external links in new windows, and I'm unlikely to change this. (Unless of course, this topic is bombarded by people espousing the merits of opening links in the same window and the evils of doing otherwise, and I'm shamed into changing all my links!)
    I'll have a go

    http://diveintoaccessibility.org/day...w_windows.html
    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/990530.html
    http://webtips.dantobias.com/new-window.html

    Thought: Shouldn't there be a way (besides checking out the source code) to determine how the site has a certain link set up? It just seems like a minor useful thing all visitors should be able to find out in a second. Something within the browser that would detect it and let you know if you wanted to find out.
    There's actually a discussion goign on in the Mozilla community about doing this and how it should be implemented: http://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=14027

  10. #10
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    There's actually a discussion goign on in the Mozilla community about doing this and how it should be implemented: http://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=14027
    Oh... ok, cool... I feel wiser beyond my time now

    Josh

  11. #11
    SitePoint Enthusiast slp's Avatar
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    I see you've taken up my implicit challenge, Skunk, and I've read through all the articles you mentioned (which, incidentally, I was relieved to see automatically opened in new browser windows, as I'd hoped!) and they raise a couple of good points, but I'm not completely persuaded yet. It was interesting to read though, that some people don't realise a new browser window has even opened! I don't know how a person could miss that, but anyway...

    The point about the Back button is a good one that I never really considered before, probably because I don't use the Back button much (except within a particular site). It takes so long for the old pages to reload (on my system) that I'd much prefer to have them stay open in their own windows if I think I might want to look at them again later. But yes, I hear you saying that it should be the user's choice.

    I definitely like the idea of having a different cursor when hovering over links that will open in a new window. It certainly would be nice to know in advance. On one of my pages I've used javascript to allow the users to choose whether pages will open in the same window or a new one, but it's a bit impractical to do that for general links unfortunately (unless you make them javascript links, which probably isn't great for accessibility and the like).

  12. #12
    Sports Publisher mjames's Avatar
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    I think this greatly depends on personal preference and the type of user you are. I use IE 6 as my primary browser and even though I have broadband/fast connection, I prefer when sites link to external sites in new windows. I do this on my page so I don't lose visitors who are curious clickers and also because I prefer it on any sites I visit.

    Like slp, I rarely use the back button except when I'm navigating the same site. For example, when I go to Google, I have it set to open all links in a new window so I can go back to the original page as quick as possible.


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