Opening new windows has been classified as one of the top ten web design mistakes of all time by the founding father of usability Jakob Nielsen.
Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design
|9. Opening New Browser Windows |
Opening up new browser windows is like a vacuum cleaner sales person who starts a visit by emptying an ash tray on the customer's carpet. Don't pollute my screen with any more windows, thanks (particularly since current operating systems have miserable window management).
Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site. But even disregarding the user-hostile message implied in taking over the user's machine, the strategy is self-defeating since it disables the Back button which is the normal way users return to previous sites. Users often don't notice that a new window has opened, especially if they are using a small monitor where the windows are maximized to fill up the screen. So a user who tries to return to the origin will be confused by a grayed out Back button.
Links that don't behave as expected undermine users' understanding of their own system. A link should be a simple hypertext reference that replaces the current page with new content. Users hate unwarranted pop-up windows. When they want the destination to appear in a new page, they can use their browser's "open in new window" command -- assuming, of course, that the link is not a piece of code that interferes with the browser’s standard behavior.
P.S. We've all done it at one point. Then you realize that using the back button is really the only way.
There may be times when it is preferable to open a link in a new window, but don't do so without telling your visitor first. The note about "this link will open in a new window" should, from an accessibility perspective, either be part of the anchor text, or precede the link itself.
Even though this method increases usability and accessibility, it is still best if the links do not open in a new window.
we all did it and some of us still do - I know I do ;)
I did change the way the new window opens though, I use to use
<a href="thenewsiteurl.com" target="_blank">visit the new site</a>
which isn't accessible. I have now changed that to
<a href="thenewsiteurl.com" rel="external" title="link opens in a new window" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false">visit the new site <img src="my_little_new_winwow_icon.gif" alt="" width="xx" height="xx" /></a>
which is more accessible as it offers the following
for people using a graphical browser the title tooltip on mouse over which will tell them that the link opens in a new window
my little icon which is also an indication of the new window being opened
for people with javacript enabled the new window will open, for those with js disabled the page will open in the same window
for people with screen readers: the title attribute which will tell them that the link opens in a new window
they have js disabled so the page will open in the same window
I know that I whould include in the anchor text 'link opens in new window' and that ideally I shouldn't even use the popup at all, but for the moment I'll keep using it that way until a better solution comes up.
[edited by: pageoneresults at 7:05 pm (utc) on Feb. 23, 2006]
[edit reason] Corrected Double Post [/edit]
I've been doing the open to a new window thing for years. It will take forever to undo them. Is there a way I could do it all from the CSS page?
I'm always hoping that CSS will solve anything.
Until user agents allow users to turn off spawned windows, do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window without informing the user.
FireFox is one of the user agents that allows us to control these spawned windows. I love this feature. I believe other user agents will all follow suit if they haven't already.
Still, as developers we find ourselves continually educating our clients on this subject, even today. Granted, there are times when a popped-window comes in handy and serves a purpose, but the external links are where we get the biggest arguments. First step is to educate, and offer options with detailed explanations but in the end we obviously will deliver what the client wants. First recommendation though is exactly what is being discussed here.
|I've been doing the open to a new window thing for years. It will take forever to undo them. Is there a way I could do it all from the CSS page? |
I'm always hoping that CSS will solve anything.
...except that CSS is meant for styling of the page only, having no impact on functionality. :)
I guess I can gradually go through page by page and fix it while watching TV. Thank goodness for lap tops.
I'd like to hear some opinions on when it might be appropriate to leave things opening to a new page.
I'm inclined to leave my Amazon links that way, maybe the on site search result page and the form for contacting me?
What do others think?
|I'd like to hear some opinions on when it might be appropriate to leave things opening to a new page. |
Me too. According to everything written about "not breaking the browser back button" you should never do it. But, some of the hard core accessibility gurus are having a change of heart. Mostly in regards to spawning new windows for enlarged images.
The one major complaint with the above practice is that the enlarged images are usually no more than 10-20% larger and in some instances the same size as the one on the product page. Go figure! I've run into this myself just recently.
If you are going to spawn a new window with an image enlargement, please make the image a minimum of 600 pixels in width so I can really see an enlarged view. And, if you want to really satisfy me, give me the option to see it at 3X the original size (minimum 760px in width). If I'm buying something of significant value and there are details to be viewed, I want to really see them. Giving me something that is 10-20% larger doesn't really do the trick.
You want me to make that purchase online? Give me a picture thats worth a thousand words.
You have a point with showing the larger version of a picture. Though even then the back button is pretty easy.
If you do use an open to a new page do you use target="new_page" or target="_blank"? (which is what I meant to put in the subtitle of this thread)
I find if just one new page pops up and I don't close it when I'm done then when I click on the next link it goes on that same page but that page is hidden by the first page. I've had people really confused by that. They think the later links don't work. But if you have a new page pop up for each link then if there are a lot of say, pictures to be enlarged the screen is soon full of windows with webpages.
More and more I'm thinking to let people use the back button. It's probably not that often that a person totally loses track of your site and really wanted to go back.
The problem with named windows is the poor handling of bringing it into focus. ... which assumes you handle that manually in your code.
|I guess I can gradually go through page by page and fix it while watching TV. Thank goodness for lap tops |
Wouldn't a batch search and replace be easier?
Heck, if you have a development server on your home box you cold just run it on the entire htdocs folder and be done with it.