How Should Outbound Links Function

There’s a good chance your website contains at least one outbound link. If so, you have probably debated whether or not this link should open in a new browser window. There are several logical reasons why this may seem like a good option. First, if your outbound link opens in the same window, users may not realize they have left your site. Additionally, users may not know how to return to your site or may simply forget they were originally on your site to begin with.

While these reasons may seem compelling enough to solidify your decision, there are other challenges that can occur when your outbound links open in a new window.

Users Want Options
As users have become more web savvy, they have developed their own preferences for how they navigate the Internet. If links are set to automatically open in new windows, users have no power to change this option. However, users have the ability to open standard links in new tabs or new windows if they choose, using options such as the right-click menu.

They Disable the Back Button
The back button is the second most used navigation option on the Internet. When links open in a new window, the back button loses its functionality, preventing visitors from returning to your site in the manner they are most familiar with.

New Windows Affect Accessibility
Users with accessibility issues are not always informed correctly when a new browser window opens. This can make it difficult for this group to navigate your site and switch between windows. This can also prevent a usability issue on mobile phones.

Browsers Don’t Handle Them Well
Most browsers now offer some form of built-in pop-up protection. This can cause your outbound links to fail.

Most Users Find them Annoying
Users want to simplify their browsing experience. Most find it both confusing and annoying when they are suddenly faced with numerous windows and tabs. Some users associate a new window with an unwanted advertisement and close them instantaneously.

Best practice does dictate an exception for this practice. If your links open PDF files, Word documents, or other similar files, it is best to open these in a new window.