External links opening in a new tab is not an uncommon debate in the world of website creation and development. One side argues that the choice should be left up to the user. The other side feels it’s good practice to keep visitors on your site for as long as possible.
It appears that this argument is often a tech savvy user verses an average user issue: Yes, it is logical that one could educate themselves of all the keyboard shortcuts and right mouse clicking options for each and every task but is this actually a reality for everyone who uses the internet? I am completely aware of what options a [control] click will provide but I still find myself dry clicking every link. If a new tab is not opened, I am the type of user that is forced to click the back button because I don’t go for the control key. I do all of this partially out of curiosity just to see how user friendly I think a site is. Of course, if I’m forced to go through this procedure, I am instantly disappointed and frustrated. What I’ve recently come to understand is that there are others that feel the exact same way for the exact opposite reason.
Some internet users feel an automatically opened browser window takes the [control] out of the user’s hands: It should be left up to their discretion how they want their browser to operate. Other concerns consist of different ways an internet user may become confused: How did I end up on a new page? Why does my [back] button no longer operate? Why do I have so many windows opened? Which one of these tabs is the one I was on before?
When posing the question to our twitter followers we received this insightful response from The Blog Studio’s friend and internet guru Saul Colt:
“@saulcolt: I am a big fan of the new tab/window. Otherwise people forget to come back and finish reading whatever sent them elsewhere.”
I know during my end of the day cleanup, while I’m closing down applications and browser windows, I often find articles that I’ve started but haven’t yet finished. Sure I’m usually at the office for an additional hour or two but if there was a reason I started reading something, more often than not, there will now be a greater reason I’ll want to finish it.
Google isn’t setup to show it’s results in a new tab or window but that doesn’t seem to bother me? The thing is, when Googling, you either find exactly what you’re looking for or you immediately use the back button and make another selection. The biggest difference is you know how to find Google and Its results are easily reproduced.
In the case of a PDF or other non web based document opening in an existing browser window, all website navigation goes out the window. From there your only possibility is the [back] button. Because of this usually being an internal web issue, it could probably be categorized as an entirely different debate.
My personal preference is to have everything open and ready to reference. Others may be content with having just moved on. A possible solution may be to save all hyperlinks until the end of an article but this doesn’t cater to the “want what you want when you want it” short attention span of users today.
The digital experience is ironically becoming more and more organic: We are typing less: clicking, swiping and voice commanding even more. I not sure “ease of use” is about knowing the correct keystrokes to accomplish a task: it should probably be more about making the experience as innate and convenient for as many people as possible.