target = _blank = annoying

How many people use target=_blank to open links in new browser windows? I used to occasionally do so whenever I felt it made more sense to preserve the content of the window containing the link. Now, however, I feel quite differently. I have come to believe that it should be up to the user to decide where the link should open up: in the same window, in a new window, or in a new tab. I think shift-clicking, command-clicking and right-clicking are well enough understood by the general public at this point that we can all stop assuming we know what the user wants and start letting them choose for themselves.

What really annoys me is when people use target=_blank when linking to other sites because they don’t want the user to leave their website. If you don’t want users to leave your site, don’t put links to other websites on it. And what really annoys me is when people use JavaScript to either resize or reposition your browser for you, as if they know more about how your desktop should be arranged than you do.

Ok, I’ll stop griping now. Just had to blow off some steam. Back to work.

29 Responses to target = _blank = annoying

  1. My blog uses target=”_blank” but I provide a link in the leftnav to reset links to open in the same window. When I surveyed readers about this, they were split between preferring new window and same window. With most (modern) browsers, even if you specify target=”_blank” you can override that to open in a new tab (and those browsers will warn you in the status bar if you’re going to pop a new window by clicking a link).

  2. Rick says:

    I’d have to disagree that most users know the shortcuts to open new windows in to open windows in tabs. Most people I know, don’t even know there they can access the right click menu in Windows, and if they do, they seldom realise it is contextual.I for one love _blank when people are compiling a list of links to visit, or using links in the middle of a paragraph.However I would totally have to agree about javascript manipulation of windows. I’ve arrange my windows how I want them. There are only two exceptions I can think of for this: certain instances in creating web applications can benefit from this, and HTML art. The latter is certainly not as prevalent as it use to be but many of those old sites still impress me.

  3. Take MXNA for example, you have a list of 10 or so interesting links, you click on one then it goes into that blog, while in that blog you find something else interesting, click there, etc, now I don’t want to loose where I was at on MXNA. By then MXNA could have been updated and new links have been added, archived, whatever now I have to find where I was at again.It has become a habit for me to shift-click, but what harm does it do to to use _blank. Other than annoy Christian. 😉

  4. Christian: I generally agree, but I have my assumptions of user comprehension tuned differently. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of users have no clue how to force a new window to open. In a situation where opening a new window will be the desired behavior for most users, I’d rather put the onus of window suppression on experienced users who know how to force things into a new tab.So when I’m linking to someone from my blog, I never use _blank… it would just be unnecessary, and breaks from blogging’s microcontent view of the Web. But on a JournURL preferences page, the link to a user’s blog is set to _blank… most of the time, folks are going to use that link to preview changes to their blog templates, and a new window makes it easier to tweak here and preview there.Oh, and one other situation where I like _blank… huge form pages with a “read our license agreement” link at the bottom. Given how bad IE can be about losing form data after hitting “back”, I expect such links to *always* open in a new window of some kind.With that said, my 100%, unqualified agreement on Javascript window manipulation. Touch my browser’s carefully chosen dimensions and I’ll never return to your site.

  5. Mike Brunt says:

    Our blog was created more for internal Webapper use in our day to day app building. We created it as a place to store good stuff or links and there is no doubt that having _blank, which we do have, saves us a lot of time when looking for something. We can do a new search more easily or cross-refer between screens easier etc. I do agree though that using it to keep visitors around is crazy and using JS to do the same forcefully is bloody suicidal IMHO.

  6. Andyed says:

    Hallelujah!>but what harm does it do to to use _blankIt does a lot of harm on machines already loaded with lots of Macromedia apps, mail. editors, db managers, etc.Plus, it disturbs the flow.For me, every click comes with the question “this window” or “new tab”. It’s just a single ctrl-key modifier to preserve the current context.That’s not a lot of time. 1/10 of a sec max, by GOMS estimations.

  7. ericd says:

    while i respect your feelings on this, i use _blank on links in my blog. i have never had a single comment, email, complaint about it. if i did, i would reconsider linking out. i generally try to link to lots of things though, so i think new windows is a benefit. thats just me though.

  8. Geoff Bowers says:

    I think it depends on whether you can use tabbed browsing or not. Those with browsers capable of tabbed browsing I’d suggest invariably open a new tab for new content if they want to preserve context — the rest of the monkeys out there on IE are split over what to do.Fullasagoog doesn’t target _blank because of my own personal preference but several folk have complained. I’ve been meaning to put in a Javascript switch-option for the unfortunates stuck on IE — it’s just a matter of finding the motivation.

  9. SEO Dave says:

    I use _blank a lot on my pages (basically anything that leaves the domains) and wish Google would use it on their search result pages so when I’m researching (which I do a lot) I didn’t have to right click open in new window (their open in new windo option doesn’t work right).So I feel the opposite way, if I find a list of resources I want to be able to go through them one at a time without loosing the main resource page.

  10. Andy Jarrett says:

    SEO Dave: i think in the preferences of Google you can set links to open in a new window?As for the _blank situation this is something that has annoyed recently aswell only because i cant make my mind up on it. I think this should depend on who your audience is. Im personally for it in a commercial site when linking out, this way your user retains the main site, plus as already mentioned i dont think the average user knows how to (or that they can) open a link in a new window. Regretfully users are never as “tech’d up” as we think they are. But i also know this gets on my nerves aswell so for my personal site i try, where possible (a couple might of crept in) to not use it, one reason is that its a blog, and if you’re there you’ve probably came through FullAsAGoog.com and more interested in the link im supplying. Personally i dont think theres an absolute answer, but one rule which i would love to enforce (and it does happen, i think bacardi.com is an offender) is no “_blank” when the link points to another page on your site.

  11. Doug Gibson says:

    Yes, I am a hater of _blank as well. But I agree with most of the comments on real-world users. I try to use _blank minimally, but do use it on occasion.I also agree with the tabbed browser observations. While I am annoyed when I encounter it unexpectantly in my own surfing, all I have to do is close the window and middle-click to re-open it in my current tabset. MyIE2 (god forbid, I actually HAVE to use IE sometimes, so I do it tabbed too 🙂 actually captures the popups and new window targets and puts them in a new tab at your option (I wish this was an option in Mozilla too). But all this said, it makes me wonder how horribly annoyed I’d be if I did NOT have a tabbed browser. I’d be back to a task bar filled with over a dozen instances of IE frequently. I would still right-click and Open in New Window when I wanted it done though.Ideally, if everyone could see a little CSS2-style icon next to external links and mailto:’s I’d see no problem with _blank. But usually there is no warning, and you have to cater to the IE masses in both respects (bad CSS and largely novice users). The next best thing is the Javascript toggle option.

  12. Ray says:

    I too am not a fan of _blank. The only time I use it is if I am linking PDF files. In general if it is what I consider to be a “document” (I define that as being something that most users will print rather than read on their computer screen) I use _blank. Other than that I do not use it.

  13. I totally agree. If you use target=_blank the user has no choice but open in a new window. I use ctrl-click a lot to open in new tabs, but that’s my choice.Problem is… most users really don’t know about these features. Every once in a while I get a message on my blog from people asking me to add target=_blank “because it makes navigation more easy”. Argh.

  14. matt shobe says:

    _blank does create headaches for some when it’s unexpected. i think the root issue, though, is not whether new window targets are good or eeevil, but rather why the web has failed to evolve generally accepted standards for strongly typed links. designers will be designers, and differing typography and color palettes will always be the rule of law across all manner of websites, but some simple CSS-driven standards that afford likely action *before* a link is clicked would go a long, long way to improving hypertext usability and efficiency.a simple example: windows help, circa 1993. rail about microsoft’s viewer app all you want, but newcomers quickly grasped the notion that solid underline = new topic in existing window while dotted underline = popup window, usually a glossary entry. very simple, very effective. of course, current web designers can’t even agree to underline text to indicate a link anymore, so mine is probably a hopeless plea.i think the web’s at sort of an exciting visual design crossroads, roughly akin to desktop publishing around 1990. (two nineties trackbacks in one post. appalling.) we finally have the power to publish with highly reliable output results for most readers, but all this power has lead to CSS abuse (see Robin Williams’ essential “The Mac is not a Typewriter” for useful allegory), among other gaffes. Yes, it’s both fun and important to infuse your work with your personality. But in online design, as in composition, the reader’s still gotta come first, or else they won’t be coming back.

  15. I actually like using a new window for links (I do want to keep people at my site, yet offer links to other interesting stuff).People have commented that they don’t want to lose track of where they were (my site) for that browsing session, but would like to branch off for a while (non-linear hyper view of the web).I do however, rarely use _blank, but instead name the target (‘pop’ or ‘new’), so that subsquent clicks to outside sites all open in the same window. This helps avoid clutter.No one I know, as casual web browsers, not developers, knows about CTRL or SHIFT anything (maybe I run with a silly crowd, or maybe they just use the internet as they would a toaster – click click click what I can see and I’m done.)

  16. Phillip R. Cargo says:

    Your grip is too general, if you are creating a web application, _blank can makes a lot of sense.By design you may never want a screen to load over another screen.And if your using Flash there is no standard way to give the user the control you want.I like to grip about people who like to grip ….If you do not want to see new windows open don’t go to those sites, or use those applications. May be instead of grip, you could get involved and write code into a browser that allows users to configure the behavior.

  17. Mark Wessen says:

    I use _blank very rarely. Maybe because I myself dont like my desktop burried in browser windows. But I do find it very useful while searching the internet.

  18. brian says:

    I believe that it should be up to the user to decide where the link should open up ie in the same window or in a new window.

  19. peter says:

    I am not a fan of _blank. The only time I use it is for linking PDF files

  20. Niaron Khan says:

    I use _blank only if I am linking files but not html

  21. John Egan says:

    I don’t use _blank to open links at all.

  22. frustrated says:

    I will tell you what is annoying, Christian Cantrell not getting Macromedia to fix the universal navigation at macromedia.com. No right-click supported!!!Quoting Christian “I think shift-clicking, command-clicking and right-clicking are well enough understood by the general public at this point that we can all stop assuming we know what the user wants and start letting them choose for themselves.”Yeah, in HTML!!! But not with Flash. Given the ubiquity of browser support for right-click context menus, Flash is a usability disaster for navigation links. And lo and behold, for going on two years now Macromedia uses Flash for it’s universal navigation?!! Why? Aren’t you the Dreamweaver company? Can you cite one reason why Flash is superior to HTML (w/ javascript) for nav bars?Either dump the Flash navigation at macromedia.com OR FIX IT!!!Please?See also the ton of virtually identical feedback on Christian’s blog July 15, 2004 at http://www.markme.com/cantrell/archives/005577.cfmWhy gripe or ask if you are not going to listen?

  23. meta says:

    I came across your site trying to make my “_blank” window not open multiple windows everytime someone clicks a link.Would someone here know how to make my links in Flash open (1) new “_blank” window and all the other links go into that browser window? Currently it’s opening open a new blank window everytime, and I only want one.Thanks.

  24. emilio says:

    Thanks to Michael Truese for the “target=pop” idea.Sometimes the answer is right under our noses.It’s the cleanest and overall best solution I’ve heard so far to both avoid browser clutter and keep users from leaving the site.

  25. Rob says:

    I’m sorry Christian, the world is right and you are wrong?

  26. Sarah says:

    I love ” target=”_blank” See this way, I can link you out of my page, but not really, cause you don’t have to use forward or back buttons and when you close off the window, you’re still on my page I want you on for more links or more of me!

  27. sarah says:

    “Link/”target=”_blank” rocks!

  28. Love the _blank says:

    _blank is good for many reasons.1] It keeps _your_ site open for future vieweing (and the visitor _can_ always hide it until they want to go back.2] It does not make the new page appear as if it’s part of your site. I don’t know about you, but I work hard to design my sites and I sure don’t want someone else’s site be represented as part of mine because I figure they worked hard on theirs, too.3] Why have to use 2 hands to open a new window when you can simply do it with a click of the mouse? That seems a lot more clunky that _blank.4] (Which was previously mentioned) If you link within your site to another site that links within its site and so on you can not always use the back button to get back to the first site. Why? Because more and more sites are using a “timing out” for security reasons. So, you’ve now viewed 5 other sites that have all linked within the same window and you use the back button to get to your original site and WHAM! You see a message on the page that says you’ve timed out and you can’t get it to always refresh to put you back where you began.I think those are enough reasons to support _blank. But, for me, the most important is that I don’t want to appear to be passing off someone else’s site as part of mine. That’s just not cool.

  29. Concerened web user says:

    Blank is the stupidest thing ever. You have a choice of a few options — this window, new tab, new window. Most people who have used the web for a while choose between new tabs and the current windows.Forcing someone to use a new window is stupid. I can override this when I open a link in a new tab, but it doesn’t give me the choice to open the link in the current window if I want it to replace it. It’s a stupid design idea for this reason.Personally, I think that every person here who has commented to the effect that it’s ok to override what your user wants is an idiot and ignorant of what good design is.