[thelist] Why target="_blank" is evil

A. Erickson amanda at gawow.com
Thu Dec 14 11:01:43 CST 2000

>    a) Include a javascript checkbox to "open links in new window"
>       and have it unchecked by default. I've seen this on a number
>       of various sites, and it works well. Best of both worlds, but
>       arguments will arise about checked/unchecked by default.

This is an interesting idea and I've seen it done. I think it's a pretty
good compromise however, it can be frustrating if you visit a site
repeatedly to remember every time to check that little box to do what you
want it to do.

>    b) Have all target="_blanks" be controlled by a js that would
>       open the window at half the current screen size. That way
>       if people do have full screen enabled, they can tell that
>       a new window has opened.

This isn't a bad idea. You could also just do regular popups with the same
target and a focus attribute -- just remember not to take away any of the
things for the new window (menus, scrolling, resizing, etc.)

>    c) Set up a usability testing with five of us from the list
>       that agree with your position. Assign one of us to say
>       that he likes the _blanks - the other people will say
>       _blanks suck.

Um. No.

>    d) Popup a frame set instead of a new window. The new site
>       will load in the bottom frame, the top frame will include
>       "remove frame", "back to company xyz" and so forth.
>       Frames are evil though, so this may be worse.

Frames are not evil but this is a horrible idea.

I use target="_blank" frequently on my personal site because that's how I
like to surf. I tend to right-click on anything that looks interesting and
"open in new window" and let it load while I finish reading the document. I
don't know whether this is at all related to my experience level with the
Internet. I remember way back in the day when I first got on the Web that
opening new windows confused me. However, there are more sophisticated ways
to deal with them now as outlined above.

I do think that the most crucial point to make here is that if you would
like to open external links in a new window that you definitely warn your
users about what is happening. Then they'll know what to look for and
they'll just love you to bits.

I probably used this one before but it sort of relates so I'll use it again.

If you are redesigning a site or a section of a site, warn your users ahead
of time. Give at least a month before launch to post a regular message on
the site that it's going to look different soon. If you can, keep a little
"redesign update" page on the site. Show screenshots if you're comfortable
doing that or just brag about the enhancements you're making. Not only does
this build a little buzz but it makes your frequent visitors feel involved
in the process and not betrayed when you take their favorite watering hole
and turn it inside out. It's just not nice to move the bar mid-drink.

- amanda

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