Change on request – accessibility for web writers

Avoid opening links in new windows. If you must, include a warning within the link.

Benefits of not opening new windows

Forcing open a new window (or tab) when a user clicks on a link:

  • Risks the user not noticing, and then wondering why their back button doesn’t work when they try to return to the page they just came from
  • Disrupts users who did notice, but prefer to manage their browser windows themselves
  • Requires users to shut down windows they didn’t open.

This is annoying for some, but can be very confusing for:

  • Vision impaired users with screen readers that don’t announce the new window opening
  • People with cognitive disabilities who may not be able to keep track of other open windows.

If you must open a new window, indicate this in the link text (unless you’re opening a document—including a document format and size warning is enough).

When is it OK to open a new window?

It’s been a long-held usability principle to avoid taking control of people’s browsing experience. And yes, most web designers ignored this.  However, there are times when it is helpful to open a new window.

  • For ‘help’ information—opening a window next to the element the user needs help with let’s them read the instructions in context
  • When the link leads to a document—opening a new window can save someone from accidentally shutting down their browser when closing the document.  Although newer browsers open documents in new tabs.  Forcing open a new window is probably not necessary now.

References