Don’t Open New Windows

  • It is possible to make links open up in a new window. Don’t do it.

    There is solid researchrecently reconfirmed—that opening new browser windows is confusing for users. Studies have shown that the back button is the second-most clicked navigation feature (links themselves are the first). Opening up a new window breaks the back button, frustrating and confusing many of your users.

    In some cases, it’s argued that we should open a new window so that we keep users on our site. But tricking users into staying on the site isn’t the approach we’re looking for. If you want them to stay, provide the content they want. And consider the problems with opening new windows, as described by usability researcher Jakob Nielsen:

    1. When new windows appear that users didn’t ask for, it’s both confusing and disruptive.

    2. If the new window completely obscures the old one, many users don’t even realize a new window has opened.

    3. Less-technical users can’t manage multiple windows.

    4. New windows can defeat users who are blind or have low vision, as, for example, when a new window opens outside the part of the screen that’s magnified for a low-vision user.

    —Jakob Nielsen,
    Open New Windows for PDF and Other Non-Web Documents


    As you might have guessed from the title of the above article there is one exception: non-Web documents and Web applications (like the Banner web client) work better in a new window, in part because they don’t act like webpages. The first of these exceptions does not apply to IUP’s website, because it is set up to simply download documents to our visitors’ computers.