Should one use the TARGET=”_blank” property on HREF tags in HTML to launch a new browser window when a user clicks on a link on your web page, or is this really bad form ?
Normal links on a web page using the HREF tag will cause the new page to be opened in the same browser window you have been using. If you want to return to the previous page, you would need to use the back button or history.
There is a school of thought which suggests that you should use the TARGET=”_blank” property to force a new browser window to open when you link to an external site – that is, not just another page on your own website (links to other parts of your own website would open in the same browser window).
I have generally made it a habit to open new browser windows for external links from my sites. I want my site to remain open in the original window while they go and visit the external site I linked to, then when they close that window mine will still be there.
There is another school of thought which suggests that such behaviour is evil and must be destroyed. The argument is that you are taking choice away from users. If a use wants to open that link in a new window, they have the choice to use the shift-key when left clicking on the link to force it into the new window, or other modifiers such as holding ctrl while left clicking or middle mouse click to open in a new tab when using a tabbed browser such as Opera or Mozilla. Otherwise, if they simply click on the link, the web page will load in your same browser window as you would expect.
Since I have started using Mozilla Firebird as my web browser, I have fallen in love with tabbed browsing. I tend to open lots of browser windows when browsing, so a tabbed interface offers a great way to manage all of those windows.
So, I understand the argument that by forcing a new browser window on users is taking their choice away – I often don’t want a new window to be launched – I want a new tab, and so I will use the ctrl key or middle mouse click to do so. I am in control this way, I get to choose where the page opens, and if I choose to have the page open in the current window, then that’s what it should do.
So I think I will need to change the way I have designed my sites – I will begin to adopt the no _blank targets stance. I love a good religious war – and I am a convert ! _blank is evil to me now, and I will do my best to share the truth with the unbelievers and lead them into the light. I will let the users choose how they want to navigate my site. I will not force my ideals onto them. :D