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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.

marked as duplicate by DPS, Matt Obee, Mayo, Ken Mohnkern, Devin Feb 24 '17 at 14:53

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  • Guess what, it depends. – Kristiyan Lukanov Jan 25 '17 at 9:12
  • @KristiyanLukanov when do you think it would be appropriate (open in new tab)? – Alvaro Jan 25 '17 at 15:22
  • @Alvaro When the user is in the middle of some process and if it quits she might have to start it again or have to log in again to proceed from where started. If you are on an enterprise application and want to read help documentation. – Kristiyan Lukanov Jan 25 '17 at 16:02
  • @KristiyanLukanov you have a good point with the process, but I'd say the browser should ask for confirmation before proceeding in the same tab, instead. – Alvaro Jan 25 '17 at 16:04
  • Damn, I hate when it happens at the same tab rather new tab – Krebto Feb 24 '17 at 13:03
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We had the same question in our company a few weeks ago, this was my answer:

Short version:

No. Always open external links in the same window/tab

Long version:

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

Further info

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For me,

Open in new tab when a link that links to external site or when the link is found in the middle of a long page regardless where it link to. Else, open in same tab for the rest of the scenario.

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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:

Don't use 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 onclick handler.

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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).
  • It may be that most browsers don't have the new tab inherent the history stack of the tab in which its originating link appears. But there is no reason that it couldn't. In fact mobile chrome does this by returning you to the tab that had the originating link when you reach the bottom of the tab's history stack. It even returns you nowhere if that tab no longer exists. But it shouldn't be that way, back should never close a tab, instead the tab should simply go back to the page that had the originating link. This way forwards works properly. – Dan D. Jan 25 '17 at 15:11
  • @DanD. on Mobile the experience is different and this "multiple history lines" is not so convenient. I was actually thinking the other way round, there are times where I want to reset the history, to focus and not mix things, so I open the current page in a new tab and close the previous; in such cases a "remove previous history" action might be convenient. – Alvaro Jan 25 '17 at 15:19

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