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Should I Open Links In New Window?

Credit: Leshaines123

Credit: Leshaines123

When I’m surfing the internet, I open all links by clicking on my mouse wheel, which puts them in a new tab. I use tabs like a short-term bookmarking system to remember what things I need to address during the day. It’s not the most efficient process in the world but it works for me.

It never gets excessive to the point where I have 30+ tabs but there are days where it gets up there. πŸ™‚

So I never gave today’s question much thought until now.

Lance of asks:

The user experience question I have is whether or not I should set up all of my links in articles to open in new tabs. I do this now, but am beginning to think it may not be a good strategy for bounce rates, not that it particularly matters.

I feel most users are advanced enough to know to right click and open the link in a new tab if they don’t want to leave the current page, but I thought I’d see what your thoughts were.

First, this is all a matter of personal preference. There is no right or wrong way.

Next, I don’t think you should make any user related decisions based on bounce rate. It’s such a flawed metric (here’s how to reduce bounce rates with a line of code) that you’re better off thinking about it from a UX perspective instead. (but we all knew that anyway)

When you put target=”_blank” in a link to open it to a new window, it opens a new window and moves the focus of the browser to that window. It might be jarring, since it’s a new tab or window, but your reader clicked on the link himself or herself. They wanted to go there in the first place. It’s still expected behavior – they are on the new page. The old page just happens to behind it or in another tab.

Personally, I always had links open in the current window and more recently I started changing it to open external links in a new window, I figure that opening in a new window doesn’t mess with user experience, it might actually be better, and I know not everyone knows how to open in a new tab (tabs are relatively new, only in the last few years). If 99% know to do it, that’s 1% that I’m keeping on my site while still offering external resources.

I think opening in a new tab is a nice balance – you can link out and not worry that you’ll lose that traffic because they clicked on the link and never returned.

If you have a question, let me know and I’ll try to answer it!

How do you open links? New window or load it up in the current one? What’s your reasoning behind it?

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In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog ( that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

18 responses to “Should I Open Links In New Window?”

  1. Michael says:

    At the very least, I think that internal links should open in the same window by default. If you want to spawn a new tab for external links, that’s okay — though I’d still prefer to control this myself.

    • Jim says:

      Yeah, internal links should always open in the same window. External ones… kind of depends on my mood I guess. πŸ™‚

  2. You know, I’ve never really given this much thought. I decided when I first started writing that each link should open in a new tab, even internal links and I just went with it.

    Contrary to what Michael said above, I think it’s beneficial to have internal links open in a new tab. Sure it might mess with your bounce rate but is that the thing that’s really important? Of course not. Reader satisfaction is what’s important. By having the internal link open in a new tab, a reader can continue to read what they started and read the supplemental article later.

    • Jim says:

      Loading a link in a new tab shouldn’t impact bounce rates because it’s still the same person loading a second page, it doesn’t matter that the new page is in a new tab.

      • I guess my comment regarding bounce rates was directed toward Lance’s original question. Frankly, I could care less about it.

        I’m curious as to why you have internal links open up in the same window. Does my initial comment make sense regarding reader usability? I feel like the majority of people just click a link that they want to check out. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to check it out that second. Maybe they want to finish reading what they started. However, if the link loads in the same page, the just lost their spot. Does that make sense?

        I know there is no right or wrong answer. I’m just wondering if my thought process is actually valid! πŸ™‚

        • Jim says:

          It makes sense, it’s just a matter of opinion. Do you think they are clicking it to read it right now or save it for later? If you think it’s to save it for later, a new tab works better. If you think they want to see it right now, then in the current window is better. While every person is different, I think that’s the logic behind it. You fall in the first camp (save it for later) whereas Michael falls in camp number two (and if he were to save, he would click and open it in a new tab).

          Your thought process is valid, your conclusion was different (but not wrong).

  3. Thanks for answering my question publicly Jim! Hopefully it helps others or at least prompts them to consider how their links open for their users.

  4. Steve says:

    I’ve always set all my links (internal and external) to open in a new window. My reasoning was taking the UX into account, giving the user the choice of whether or no they wanted to leave the current page. I’ve always thought the same as Adam where he says “By having the internal link open in a new tab, a reader can continue to read what they started and read the supplemental article later.”

    That being said, I have recently been rethinking this strategy and with my newest site I believe I’ll be allowing internal links to open in the same tab, while setting external links to open in a new tab. I don’t have any metrics to prove that this is a superior method, but I notice that Facebook does it this way and I’m willing to bet that they’ve spent a bit of time testing it.

    • Jim says:

      Some sites force you to remain in the same window. If you go to ESPN and try to open a post in a new tab with the middle mouse wheel, it’ll override you and open it in the page. It will open a new tab if you hold CTRL when you click… not sure the design decision behind that.

  5. Michael says:

    Given the disagreement in this thread, I’m more convinced than ever that this should be left up to the individual user. That is, open in same window by default with the user have the option of option in a new tab with a keystroke (cmd-click on Mac, whatever it is on Windows). I didn’t realize that ESPN forced things to remain in same window — in fact, I didn’t even know that was possible. But that’s annoying. I like flexibility.

    • Jim says:

      I think you might be able to control it if you changed links to have no href and used javascript to change the page based on the OnClick event.

  6. Andrea says:

    I always set external links to open in a new tab in case a visitor isn’t aware that s/he can right-click to do it. When I read articles online, I always open any links in another tab so I can look at them after I finish the current article, so to me it makes sense to help visitors do the same.

    I don’t worry about my bounce rate; I just like to make things convenient for people whenever possible. That said, if they find my site open in another tab later and decide to check out other posts, I won’t be offended in the least. πŸ™‚

  7. MoneyAhoy says:

    I used to open them in a new tab, but I reverted back to the simpler choice of the current window. I’ll leave it up to the user to decide what they want to do without short-circuiting their decision.

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