I am going to attempt to answer a question that, well, we don’t normally talk about in public.
Q. Should you open a link in a new tab or have it open in the same tab?
A. The quick answer is, it depends.
You really should care about getting this one right because it’s all about the user experience. When someone comes to your site the last thing you want to do is make it hard for them, right? People hate scrolling, they also hate tabs opening without expecting it.
Let me tell you a totally made up, hyperthetical story.
I have been thinking about coaching with you. (Yes! You!) I’ve been following you for a while now but I haven’t taken the first step. I have been to your site in the past, signed up for your free gift, I read your newsletters and articles. But you have been just out of my price range. I know you are worth your price, I just have to save a little bit more to afford you. BMWs aren’t cheap, right? I know that neither is good coaching. (I could have said I was a newbie to your site but I like this story better.)
As I said, I went to your website hoping to find something in my price range so I could start working with you. To my surprise, your site has been redone since the last time I was there. It is so pretty. I love the way your new home page is laid out.
By the link at the bottom of the site I know this was a very expensive website. I really like how the designer paid attention to small details of each area of the site. He/she did a really good job of bringing over the colors and branding of the old site. I bet you are really happy with your new site. Who wouldn’t be? The design is flawless. It’s exactly what you envisioned.
Disclaimer: Being a web coder I tend to look “at” a website in a way that others don’t – in a much more critical manner. I see the pimples that others don’t see. So don’t take what I am about to tell you personally.
I start poking around your site. I click on a link. Uh oh. It opened in a new tab. Ugh. The next link did the same, and so did the next. I soon had 5 tabs open. The only reason I only had 5 tabs open is because I stopped clicking. I knew where each click was going to lead me – to another open tab. I feel, um, well I first feel like you are so full of yourself that you want to take over my computer (ie my life!). I know that isn’t like you so I figured that your web designer just didn’t understand me – your target market. I am busy. I have a bunch of my own tabs open. I don’t have time to be weeding through tabs, yet I’m afraid to close them, afraid I might close something I hadn’t yet bookmarked.
Now, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with links opening in new tabs. There is just a rule of thumb; a best practices method if you will; a right or wrong way to deal with links so you keep your visitor focused on what they should be focused on – your offerings.
Here are my rules of thumb when it comes to opening links…
1. If a link takes you to a page within your own site and people can easily get back to the home page, then it SHOULD NOT open in a new tab. There’s no reason for it to. Set it to open on itself.
Bonus Info: In the HTML, add target=”_self” to make links open in the current window or tab.
ie < a href=”yoururl.com” target=”_self”>LINK< /a >
2. If a link takes you to another website, it SHOULD open in a new tab. The reason is because you don’t want the link to open a new site and close out your site.
Bonus Info: In the HTML, add target=”_blank” to make links open in a new tab.
ie < a href=”yoururl.com” target=”_blank”>LINK< /a >
And the reason I said, “it depends” in the first paragraph…
3. If it takes you to a sales/landing page on your site with no navigation, that’s a maybe. Personally, I would set it to open in a new tab. Other’s might not because web visitors can backspace in the URL to get back to the home page. When deciding on this one, think about your target market. Think about how they would feel about the page changing to a page with no navigation vs having a new tab open. Ask them if you aren’t sure.
What do you think about this rule of thumb? How do your links open on your site? Do they open in a way that makes sense to your web visitors?