In my security webapp chausies.xyz/encrypt, I have the main webapp without any clutter for the general user, and then, at the bottom of the page, I list a bunch of external security references in case anyone wants to dig deeper or learn more about the security used by the app. Currently, I have these sending the user to a new tab by default (with target="_blank"), but is this as it should be? My reasoning is that all these link to wikipedia and other places that have nothing to do with actually using the webapp. And, for security purposes, the website loads with all forms cleared every time, so going "back" to the website is the same as just opening it again.

Similarly, in the security overview for the webapp, it's filled with a bunch of references (external links) to wikipedia and random open source code. Should it be the case that all these external references send the user to a new tab?

This question is relevant to mine, but I am specifically interested in my case, where the items are all external security references which are all side-reading that has nothing to do with using the webapp itself, and the webapp itself has all of its forms cleared on every load for security purposes (detracting from the argument that users can "just go back" if things were kept on the same tab).


3 Answers 3


Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I tend to prefer new tabs. I will often right-click "Open Link in New Tab" in order to force items to open in new tabs - e.g., when I am reviewing a bunch of new items in StackExchange so that I can get through a list of questions without having to keep reloading the list.

I think the people that tend toward "same tab" are often still stuck in the pre-tab era, as separate windows really are a pain but separate tabs are very fast & easy to work with. Some specifics:

Same Tab

Example: Google search results.

  • Back button works well, provided the original page is easily reloadable and not itself the result of a POST.
  • If the user is likely to be "lost" anyway, then this is easier for the user.
  • If the link is an affiliated site (e.g., another site within the same company, an ad from a partner, etc.) then the user isn't really "lost" and this can be reasonable.

New Tab

Example: Google News articles.

  • Back button doesn't work, but user can close tab and get back to previous tab without any concern about whether the page can be reloaded. Browser dependent: If the user has multiple other tabs open, the next tab displayed after closing this "new" tab may not be the most recently accessed tab.
  • Users are not "lost" because when they return to the original tab they are right where they left off.

In the end, it is very much an individual decision, but my general recommendation:

  • List of items (search results, info. links, etc.) - New Tab
  • External Links (Wikipedia, unrelated sites) - New Tab
  • Primary navigation within a site (menus/submenus, login/logout, etc.) - Same Tab
  • I agree, from my personal experience it feels like "new tab" people are more often power users while "same tab" people are generally non-techy casual users
    – Big_Chair
    Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 14:33

According to Jakob Nielsen, you should let the user decide wether clicking on a link will open a new browser window/tab or not.

See section 9 in the following article: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/top-10-mistakes-web-design/


One advantage of same tab is that the user can easily choose which one they want (i.e. left click vs middle click).

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