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Basically, we are working on a site that is similar to Reddit (but not exactly a clone). Users are able to post images, links and text posts (what Reddit calls "self posts") and we believe links will not be the most used type.

The original plan was that if user clicks an external link in a list, we open it in a frame with a toolbar on top. This would provide a number of benefits:

  • user has one click access to the actual content + some of the relevant information
  • from there he can navigate to the comments on the links without going back or switching tabs
  • ...or navigate back and forth through the list of links
  • ...or open the link in the same/new window

Unfortunately, due to a number of security restrictions, this functionality is crippled: some sites will not open in frames at all and if the user has navigated inside the frame we have no way to know what URL to open in the new window. The resulting UX is too frustrating so we don't consider this option anymore.

The site also makes use of history API and preserves some local state on the client, in a way that opening the link in the same window and coming back breaks a bit of the functionality, so this is undesirable. And, unlike Reddit, we don't expect the majority of our users to be tech-savvy enough to middle-click the links themselves.

So the options I currently see are:

  • open the link in same/new tab, let the user come back and click on "comments" if he wants to. This is the default behaviour on Reddit and I personally find it quite annoying to have to search the page for the link I clicked if I want to comment afterwards, to the point that I've started to...
  • open the comments page first, from where the user can then go to the actual link (or read the comments and decide not to)
  • simultaneously open the link in the new tab and the comments in the current one. The user can then see the content first and then easily come back to comment, or click Back and return to the list. As a bonus, actually middle-clicking the link would not open the comments in the background. I don't see any downsides here, except not being able to open a link in the same tab, but it's a mild annoyance compared to others. It could be a bit disorienting for the first few times though.

Which one of these would be the least annoying for the majority of users? Is there any research on how people usually go about multiple links on the same page?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Any system need to follow simple rules, without cognitive load of any kind - which make me think you're comlicating things. Tha last option is the worst, since we don't want one link to open two pages (comment page and link page). That would scare user off and possibly also make a few browsers thinking you're using dark patterns. Remember the endless popup windows in the late 1990s'?

Instead I would combine option one and two into where we tell users what to expect clicking a link:

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

This can of course be moderated, but I feel that giving users the options to brows to the post, the external link or comments is the best. What about users moving away from your site? Don't worry - the Back button is the lifeline of the Web user and the second-most used navigation feature (after following hypertext links).

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