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Ways to NOT take visitors away from your site

regarding linking to articles from other sites

6:41 pm on Jul 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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My website often times contains links to useful articles on other sites. Direct linking (the new page would open using your current page) to those articles would take people away from my site. I've noticed how other sites do direct linking by having a top frame which contains their site's Logo and link so people can just click there to get back to their site. Another way of course would be to open the links in another browser window, but that would cause too many windowns opened and might confuse the users from which is which. So I think the best way to do this is to use the former method (a frame on top).

What are your takes on that? do you have any other ways to deal with linking to other sites?

Thank you in advance for your two cents.

7:37 pm on July 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I would avoid frames at all costs. They're not universally compatible and can frustrate and confuse the user. Think about when your user tries to bookmark one of the pages you're linking to. Then when they try to go back to it later, they get your main page, not what they were trying to bookmark. Frames can also harm your SEO efforts if you use them across your whole site.

I usually open external links in a new window if I really want to keep my site up on their desktop. With JavaScript, you can play with the size, position and attributes of the new window in order to help the UI, if you feel necessary.

8:15 pm on July 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Most any technique you will use to keep users on your site will have a negative impact on the visitor experience. There are lots of different techniques out there (some already mentioned here), but the one thing they all share in common is that they tend to affect visitors negatively.

I'd spend more time working on pulling in more new visitors rather than trying to trap the current ones. In the long run, it will pay off.

12:47 pm on July 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I read an article on the web somewhere by one of the "big shots." Meaning either Zeldman, Veen, Meyer, etc. It was about linking and this very same topic. His take was that users should be in control of how they want their links to open. If they want them to open in a new window, then they can right click and do so. Otherwise, open links in the same window.

I used to force all of my links to other sites to open in a new window. Now I let them be. Can't say I've heard any difference in feedback from visitors, however. But I'd like to think it's better this way.

10:48 am on July 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I would avoid frames at all costs

Does that extend to iframes also?

Most of my pages with iframes (about 80%) are spidered by google and are cached with the content from within the iframe. They don't rank well in the serps, but then I really don't expect them too.

11:35 am on July 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I am always intrigued by people trying to stop users from leaving their site - especially by opening new windows all over the place.

If this was used universally it would make the web a real pain to use - there would be windows open everywhere. I can see how it has a use where there is a list of items to which a user may be expected to return and where a user is likely to click a series of links rather than just one, but it more often abused than used well.

Where Javascript is used poorly it can be doubly annoying, since if the user tries to voluntarily open a link in a new window by right clicking, it is often impossible. Now you annoy a user who actually wanted to stay on your site.

Framing someone else's page for the sole or principle purpose of keeping people on your site is plain wrong IMHO. Not to mention incredibly annoying for the user.

Fact: users will leave your site. All of them.

If you want to keep them as long as possible give them a good reason to stay rather than trying to trap them.

If you want them to come back do nothing to annoy them.

11:52 am on July 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I would avoid frames simply to avoid pi**ing off the webmasters of the other sites.
Every page of mine breaks out of frames because I get quite angry myself.

Personally, I give straight html links, in the same window, never a new one.
My site is right there, one click of the back button, neat and clean,
and nobody is getting pi**ed at me. -Larry

4:26 pm on July 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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is the use of Iframes for other sites legal?

does it just pxxs off the other webmaster or is it actually illegal?

6:36 pm on July 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Personally, I'm a big fan of opening links in new browser windows from time to time. Something a lot of the tech-minded people here don't seem to realize is that the average visitor to a non-tech site doesn't know how to open a link in a new window anyway. I know of many people who actually consider it helpful for the webmaster to make certain links open in new windows. I've even heard people complain because a link didn't open in a new window when they thought it should. (That's normally ads, links to external sites, and "help" links such as often are used to explain form fields more fully.)

For those who say a new window should always be the choice of the visitor, how about a relevant analogy? Most (all?) browsers allow users to set up user stylesheets which will be applied to all webpages. So, what makes us think we can dictate how our site looks? Shouldn't that be up to the user? Therefore, perhaps we all ought to design our sites in plain linear format, and allow visitors to lay them out and style them in other ways with their browser stylesheets. Surely it's not up to us designers to force visitors to view our sites a certain way, is it?

And the obvious answer is, we can't force people to view our sites in a certain way. No matter how carefully we design our pages, no matter what styling techniques we use, users will still be able to change how our sites look, either with user stylesheets or one of the many other methods available such as Greasemonkey or Norton IS.

In other words, if someone wants to view your site a different way, they can. And, likewise, if someone doesn't want links to open in a new browser window, there are steps they can take to prevent that, too.

The balance, as always, is to design your site with your users in mind. If you think they'll appreciate a new window, by all means, use target="_blank" (or one of the other methods) to open the link in a new window. Lots of visitors will appreciate it, some won't think anything about it one way or another, and a few won't like it at all. Those last folks are the ones who will know how to stop it from happening anyway. I haven't seen a link open in a new browser window for years.