What is best case scenario for external link to open in new tab or same tab? and Why? When do we use external link? Is it when the data is linking to some external page other than your existing page.
We had the same question in our company a few weeks ago, this was my answer:
No. Always open external links in the same window/tab
Okay okay, as always it depends. But only do this when you are absolutely sure your target group is internet savy enough (spoiler alert: this is almost never the case)
First of all, don't mix behavior
A single page on your site probably hosts a number of different hyperlinks. Some are internal, others external, and some download a document. It’s important to be consistent in your behaviour in order to keep everything working smooth for your users. Making sure that links behave in the same way. So you don't want to mix up the behavior too much. Although it is easy for us to distinguish an internal and external link for our own websites, the user often doesn’t have a clue. So if we start making exceptions for internal and external links it quickly becomes a mess for the users.
Making a visual distinction between internal and extern links is a possibility but most often only makes the page more cluttered because you’ll be putting icons everywhere.
So should we open in a new tab?
With regards to usability there’s also a lot of research out there which is all quite unanimous in saying no, don't do it:
- Opening in the same window is the default setting for browser.Changing this makes sure you will not comply to the standard. Why is your site so special you should not have to comply to an international standard?
- Working with tabs is behavior we often see amongst more experienced/tech savy users. Less tech savy users often don't grasp the concept of these tabs all to well, and from my own experience I have seen many of them simply overlooking them.
- Users who do know how to work in tabs, also know how to open a link in a new tab (ctrl+click, RMB, etc.). They can make a choice on what they want to do therefore they often don't see this as a major issue.
- Your back button won’t function anymore. This is the go to action for the majority of internet users who are lost.
- You'll give screen readers a hard time, making your website less accessible.
- Mobile usage becomes a pain. There are not many people used to working in tabs on mobile
Some links with background information:
Hope this answers your question.
Almost always it is a good practice to open an external link in a new tab, because that way you are not hijacking the experience of the user, it is also advisable to show an arrow depicting the nature of the link as well, this way the user know what will happen when he clicks that link.
In certain situations when you are done with the article/page and there is a link at the end of the page that takes the user to a different link it is okay to open it in the same tab as long as the user has nothing more left to do with the current site, so it also depends on the purpose and placement of the link.
I believe that links should open on new tabs when it links to other website, so you are safeguarding that your website doesn't suffer from higher bounce rate. If the link simply takes the user to other section of your website, then it makes sense to open on the same tab.
Let's take this to a real life analogy but still related with experience: if you are on a store and you ask for something that doesn't exist there, the clerks will redirect you to other store (new tab) but if exists, they will tell where it is on the store (current tab).
Open in a new tab but provide some indication of this behaviour.
The majority of users are ok with a new tab opening (when linking to an external site). But this has issues with regards accessibility - How does the user know a new link has been opened? You need to inform them of this somehow.
This can be a particular problem for userswho may not be accessing your site through a standard setup or using some form of assistive technology.
If the user clicks on a link, the user expects the link to replace the current page, an action the user should be able to undo with the back button. If the user opens a link in a new tab, the user expects the new tab to contain the target of the link as if the user had duplicated the current page and clicked on the link in the copy.
This expectation yields certain rules:
target='_blank'. Never force links to open in a new tab. Let the user decide if that is needed. You may mark external links.
Also every link (A element) should have an actual
href that is a real URL. Not just an
Opening a link in a new tab implies creating a new line in history. This means:
- New history (with no connection to the former): no back button
- Maintain the original line: creating a parallel one
The reasons for taking such decision should be left to the user. The only cases I see the decision could be taken for the user are:
- The page wants to open parallel content: in my opinion, this is bad practice and should be avoided in the first place (think of an Ad parallel page).
- The page opens something which is not a web page: in this case I would say that the History line is interrupted, because the browser is actually taking actions which "don't belong" to a browser (behaving like a different app rather than browsing the internet).