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Just in case you weren’t sure quite how nerdy I really am…

The debate du jour surrounds blog writing etiquette and linking. We all know it’s best practice to link out from your posts – but is there a correct way to format these links? There are two ways to go:

1. Open link in the same window.

2. Open link in a new window.

When you open the link in the same window, it obliterates the page from which you received the link in the first place. This disturbs me as a reader because I lose track of where I was and can’t make my way back (especially if I was on a new site that I found and was focused on the content, not the name and url). To me, it’s the equivalent of falling down the rabbit hole. Who knows when I’ll find my way back.

As a blogger, it concerns me that my readers will experience what I just described. That they’ll click on a link and be lost forever. Via a lively debate on Twitter, Ron Miller said:

ron_miller @writingroads I know, but I still don’t think you have to have the link open in a new window. Your readers will come back.

Maybe…but what about the person that followed a link that looked like this: “”??? They might not know where they are. And this isn’t some sort of writer’s insecurity for me. I can be reading the most fabulous post I’ve ever read, click a link and get lost or busy or distracted.

Some people feel very strongly that the link should be opened in the same window, here are a few:

adamconnor @writingroads opening links in new windows is typically a usability no-no. Have seen it confuse users in a few studies.

CharJTF @writingroads Accessibility-wise, opening in new window isn’t easier. Personally, I hate links that spawn new windows…I can do it myself.

The issue for them with opening links in a new window is that users suddenly have multiple tabs open. I love multiple tabs. I build them up as my day goes on. Firefox allows me to have over 20 tabs open, and I move with the dexterity of a jedi from window to window throughout the day. My ADD mind loves the options, the accessibility, the madness of it all.

But, I also love that when I click on a link, I can read it, close it and then find myself back on the original site without having to store any info in my crammed brain. Suddenly this site is before my eyes, and I say, “Nice site! Hey, I’ve been here before! Oh, this is where I was before I clicked to read that other article….” Understanding sets in and a warm, almost fizzy, feeling of recognition floods my body. No, I’m not ‘simple’ – just busy.

Is there a right way? Is there a wrong way? Not entirely sure, but there do seem to be a lot of opinions. As for me, I’m thinking: If I love Japanese food, but abhor Italian, why would I feed you lasagna? You’ll notice that I almost always open links in a new window.

Image courtesy of Qtea

Join the discussion 21 Comments

  • Marilou says:

    CTRL+click is your friend. I prefer when they open in a new window, so I always CTRL+click. I open in new window/tab, so they don’t get lost. I know my A.D.D. takes me pages and pages away from where I started, but I like to be reminded where I was when I’m all done wiht it.

  • Laurin says:

    I don’t feel strongly about this at all, but I did read once that you should not send your readers to a new window because that is “taking over their browser.” I’ve never forgotten that. Wish I could remember where I saw that.

  • Meghan says:

    I write for a site where we are always supposed to have our links open new windows, and personally as a writer AND reader, my ADD mind prefers new windows as well. It’s easier to backtrack, and I do get lost WAAAAY to easily down that rabbit hole, in fact I couldn’t even tell you how I ended up here… LOL

  • Julie Roads says:

    Marilou – first of all GREAT name. Second of all…not all people know about the control + click option. Though it’s a great remedy for those that do…thanks!

  • I also prefer to open links in a new window/tab, and mine are all formatted that way. I know some people prefer it the other way — but you can’t please everyone!

  • Michele says:

    I prefer links to open in a new window. I always try to remember to choose “open in a new window” when I’m creating posts. I am so weird (LOL!) that if I click on a link and it opens in the same window, I’ll copy that link, open a new tab and past it in and open it there and go back to the previous tab and hit the back arrow. See, you aren’t the only one!! ;-)


  • Julie Roads says:

    Oh, Michele…you just made me feel so much better about myself! LOL…thanks for that big reveal…

  • Michele says:

    LOL! You’re most welcome. :-)

  • Liz Jenkins says:

    I always want a new window for many reasons. If I’m reading a blog like yours and you have a link I want to check out, I’ll open it, continue with what I’m looking at on your site, then go and peruse the link later, or vice versa. But I don’t want to lose my original place.
    If it is my own blog, website or whatever, I don’t want people to leave and get lost away from my site. I want them with me, not someone else.
    I think it’s too easy to get sidetracked on the web and if I’m interested in a particular site – I’d much rather have the ability to find it again.
    I usually right click and use the open in a new window choice for everything just in case. I like the idea above with the new tab.
    I’m totally with you on this one – I hate it when you click and then are gone from where you were – sometimes you can keep going and end up who knows where. Not that that is always a bad thing but not very good for the original poster as they are never seen nor heard from again.

  • Got to be a new window for me. Makes life soooo much easier, and isn’t that what tabs are for?! (Interesting that it’s all women who’ve responded – and nearly all of us have said the same thing!)

    Love the site, Julie, and love your new e-book!

  • B says:

    I was going to give my opinion, but I could just copy and paste what Liz Jenkins says, word by word.
    I wasn’t even aware that some people had problems with this. For me, open in a new window is instinctively better as a blogger and a blog reader.
    And, Michelle, I do that too!!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ladies! You are cracking me up…when I said that I liked new windows on Twitter I got pounded – so I’m loving that you’re all on my side…

    Eugenie – thanks for the kind words on the new ebook!

  • Michele says:

    @B: You do? LOL! I guess Julie and I aren’t the only ones! ;-)


  • If you provide links naturally, then everyone has the option to open links in a new window or not. People who like links in new windows can open links in new windows.

    If the link opens in a new window for you, then the site owner has taken that decision away. If you prefer links open in a new window, great. If you don’t want a new window, however, you don’t have the option.

    Given the choice between the two, I prefer to leave very personal decisions like how to browse up to the individual user and not try to assume how *I* want to navigate is how *they* want to navigate.

    And while not everyone knows how to open a new window (by ctrl-clicking or right-clicking), I like to think that those who feel strongly about it will learn enough about their browser to learn how to take control of their own experience.

  • Julie Roads says:

    I don’t know John…read the comments above…

    Anyway, it’s boiling down to two sides – with each feeling VERY strongly about their way.

  • Gwynne says:

    Seems there’s a gender difference here, too…what say you? And do you know of any research re: women and men’s thinking while clicking?!

  • Julie, I do see that there are a lot of people who like to open links in new windows, and there are also a lot of people who want to force links to open in new windows in order to increase site stickiness.

    But people who want to open links in new windows (which includes myself) can do so. But by deciding to open new windows without asking, you are forcing a specific navigation model on people which they may not want or may even be detrimental.

    Generally, respecting the ability of your users to make their own decisions about how to browse is a good idea, and forcing new windows open violates this. It might be a convenience to people who want to surf that way, but it is an inconvenience to people who don’t. Potentially a significant one, since it breaks the back button, can be easy to miss when on a small monitor, and isn’t very compatable with assistive technologies like screen readers.

    Gwynne, I’m not sure there’s a gender difference — it’s just coincidental here. I know a lot of female web developers and production people who consider the new-browser-window model to be a bad idea. I’ve most commonly seen the fracture between web content managers (who want to extend page views as much as possible) and web developers (who are often user-behavior-focused and sensitive to accessibility issues).

  • Julie Roads says:

    John – thank you for this fantastic info. I’m going to out myself here, but I think I’m pretty web savvy (since I spend about 10 hours per day online) – but I didn’t know until someone told me recently that I could do the right click thing to choose how I want to open the window. So, I have to think that if I didn’t know about that, many others won’t. So – if you think about that – and you don’t have it open in a new window, you’re forcing usability on them too.

    That said, I appreciate your thoughts about breaking the back button, etc…that just doesn’t happen to annoy me.

    I think the insinuation that having a link open in a new window is disrespectful and violates your users is a bit too extreme for this topic. I mean, it’s not personal, it’s business.

  • Laura says:

    I don’t use a lot of links to other sites but I do have them all open in a new window. Mainly I do it this way because as a reader I don’t like losing the page I was reading. I usually have something I want to come back to read further or I am comparing information from the old site to the newly opened one. I understand the point about having extra windows open but that seems more of a concern for web surfing 5 – 10 years ago when most people were still on dial up. I’m with you as far as having dozens and dozens of windows open. I open a new window for almost everything.

  • Laura says:

    PS- Some sites have right click disabled so that isn’t always an option. Always ticks me off a bit when I can’t open a link in a new window but they do it that way to prevent people from stealing their content. Not that it actually works when you can just use screen capture.

  • Dave Doolin says:

    This issue divides people into 3 camps:
    1. People who will loathe and despise you for opening in new window.
    2. People who will be disappointed to lose their place on the page when they click a link opening in the same tab or pane.

    – and –

    3. The 99% of people who, frankly, don’t give a crap either way.

    You may find that Camp 1 contains very noisy people. It’s a worthwhile exercise to determine whether anyone in Camp 1 is willing to purchase. If not, they are not customers, probably won’t ever be customers, so why would their opinion matter.

    I split the difference. I let links open in the same window, unless they open in a new window. Which is cool too.

    Honestly, some of things people beef about…
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Persistence – the critical trait for success, in any endeavor =-.

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