To Popup Or Not To Popup?
June 29, 2009 6:48 AM   Subscribe

To Popup or Not to Popup?

I have a blog website. It's a serious site with a lot of content. We've been working hard on it and it's beginning to gain a nice little readership.

Currently, I am setting up any links within a post to open in the same window, in other words, without a target attribute set.

However, a few friends have opined that I should set up my anchor tags to launch a new window so that my viewers don't get lured away from my site when they click on a link.

My first reaction to this idea is that I want to avoid opening a popup window but perhaps I'm wrong.
Web designers and blog viewers - what is your current thinking on this? Which do you prefer?
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
People who put popups on their sites should be arrested.
posted by dfriedman at 6:49 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


It should be up to the user whether to open the link in a new window or not.
posted by whiskeyspider at 6:52 AM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Opening up in a new tab I find acceptable. Just. With written warning. 3 days in advance. After my legal team have verified. And only if my mother knows where I am.
posted by daveyt at 6:53 AM on June 29, 2009


so that my viewers don't get lured away from my site when they click on a link (chocolatepeanutbuttercup)

If you don't want visitors to leave your site, don't have any links. Problem solved.

But seriously, that "open in new window" kind of link is really annoying to your average user. If they like your site, they'll come back to it—you don't need to force them to. In fact, making each link open in a new window will probably bias them against your site, as they will remember it as that annoying site that has all of its links open in new windows.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:53 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's probably a bad idea because it will "break" the back button for users who are less savvy, and more savvy users don't like popups because they could do that for themselves if they wanted to.
posted by lucidium at 6:58 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you put target="_blank" on your links, there are two possibilities: I do want a new window/tab, and I get one, or I don't want a new window/tab, but I get one anyway.

If you don't put target="_blank" on your links, there are also two possibilities: I do want a new window/tab, and I use my browser's built-in features to get it, or I don't want a new window/tab, and I don't get one.

So your putting in target="_blank" gets me what I want in one out of two cases, and leaving it out gets me what I want in all cases. The only way to rationalize putting it on there is if you believe your readers are too stupid to know how to use their browsers to get what they want, or if you just don't care and want your site to remain open in a window for as long as possible, which is kind of assy.
posted by letourneau at 7:04 AM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's worth mentioning that the target="_new" business may get in the way of validation, so if you care about having your code being 100% SUPER SEMANTIC, you should avoid that.

From a flow perspective I kind of understand the thinking of your friends, but they're wrong -- linking to content elsewhere is the activity that will shift their attention away from your site, not browser window behavior itself.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:05 AM on June 29, 2009


You folks in the shoot first, then arrest, never ever ever brigade are aware that you're posting on a site on which all the links within a post are target="_blank", right?

I think of a popup as some javascript obnoxiousness that is invoked for ad purposes under some circumstances other than my intentionally clicking on a link to view its content. target="_blank" to me is an interface decision that I would generally not make, but if it is a site like this one where people spend some healthy time there and get used to its interaction, they are unlikely to be hoppin' mad about having external links in a new page.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:17 AM on June 29, 2009


You folks in the shoot first, then arrest, never ever ever brigade are aware that you're posting on a site on which all the links within a post are target="_blank", right?

Uh, that's a user preference, chief. Click on the "Preferences" link in the Metafilter header area and turn it off if you don't like it (as I don't).
posted by letourneau at 7:19 AM on June 29, 2009


Previously, near-identical question. The answer seems to be a resounding No.

I often middle-click/ctrl-click on links to open them in a new tab; it takes as much effort on my part as regular-clicking. However, I hate when the decision is made for me.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:23 AM on June 29, 2009


So it is, don't remember ever selecting it but it's been a few years now.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:24 AM on June 29, 2009


Popup for an anchor link???? What's the point of an anchor link then? They shove you at the bottom of the page. I'm thinking these "friends" of yours work for my company where bad ideas abound and our site is stuck in 1994. "Under construction" animated gif and all.

Lose your friends. They suck. :)
posted by dasheekeejones at 7:29 AM on June 29, 2009


However, a few friends have opined that I should set up my anchor tags to launch a new window so that my viewers don't get lured away from my site when they click on a link.

That's terrific advice. It's exactly state-of-the-art business advance for the web. In 1997.

It's 2009 now. Don't do anything that "tricks" users into staying on your site.
posted by rokusan at 7:38 AM on June 29, 2009


Lured away? Like a creepy guy in a van offering kids candy?

I'll open a link in a new window if I'd like. I also know where the back button is if I'd like to go to your site.

If your friends tell you that you should split your entries over multiple pages to get more hits/impressions, ignore that too.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:38 AM on June 29, 2009


so that my viewers don't get lured away from my site when they click on a link.

I've heard this too from people, even from designers who should know better. The idea behind this is that by having your site buried behind other windows that you've opened, somehow the user isn't "away" from your site - even though since your site is buried under pop-up windows, your user is already away from your site. And your user knows, or thought he knew how to get back to your site, via the back button, which you've just effectively killed.

If you want people to use the back button, don't kill it and have content that they would want to come back for.
posted by xetere at 7:49 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know nothing about web design but I read blogs. If you tried to trick me I wouldn't read your blog.

I'd just skip yours if it conflicted with my Adblock preferences. There are dozens of blogs I'd like to read everyday anyway but don't have the time.

If your blog is still growing, you shouldn't alienate your readers.
posted by vincele at 8:04 AM on June 29, 2009


a few friends have opined

This is good. It helps you sort out the friends whose advice you should listen to on Web stuff if you're interested in solid organic growth versus those whose advice you should ignore. These friends are clearly in the latter category.
posted by mediareport at 8:21 AM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Metroid Baby, thanks for that previous question - I searched but didn't find it.

It seems pretty unanimous - I'm going to keep my current scheme. My goal is to make a site so interesting that readers will always want to return to.

Thanks to all who wrote!
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 8:22 AM on June 29, 2009


... one more comment.

Jakob Nielsen, usability guru, who is very big on the anti pop-up new window campaign, does say now that he sees the logic of new windows if you hyperlink to something like a PDF, Excel Spreadsheet, Word document et al. Since these traditionally have *not* opened in a browser window but now often (esp. on IE) they do, users often will close the browser after reading the document, because well, they are on autopilot, they viewed the PPT, they "close PowerPoint" and they do that before they even realize hey this PPT is in the browser. I've done it myself countless times. Still not convinced but for that one instance, it is at least a valid reason for doing so.
posted by xetere at 8:23 AM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


arg.
return to it.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 8:23 AM on June 29, 2009


so that my viewers don't get lured away from my site when they click on a link.

This was dumb advice even in the 90s; it's based on the assumption that your users are so brain-dead that they'll immediately forget all about your website the minute something shiny distracts them. Also that they don't have a back button.

disregard this advice if your target readership is the brain-dead
posted by ook at 8:27 AM on June 29, 2009


heh, that'll teach me not to preview.
posted by ook at 8:30 AM on June 29, 2009


I use target="_blank" in one, and exactly one, situation: When linking to sites that redirect incoming links, to put a frameset around them or something. This breaks the back button anyway - well, unless the user hammers backspace or is savvy enough to use something like the Firefox drop-down recent-history thing, anyway.

I reckon that people who know how to do that will not be greatly bothered by the popup (in this one particular case), and people who don't know how to get back from a redirecting page will be less mystified if my link opens in a new window/tab.

Obviously it's better to just link to the final framed-or-something page, but this is not always possible.
posted by dansdata at 9:37 AM on June 29, 2009


I generally avoid spawning new windows, but there are exceptions. One exception is when you want to generate something to be read side-by-side with the current page. This is uncommon.

Another, similar, is when you want to pop up a small definition page — really just an itty bitty rectangle explaining something. These days, I would use some Javascript, CSS, and hidden div tags to do this, but if technical/audience considerations prevent Javascript (so rare), that's also an option.

If you've got some financial or otherwise private data, or something wherein people might be lured away under some scammy pretext, I might also consider it, although the practice these days is to provide an interstitial page nothing "You are now leaving site XXX. Any data you enter here is not secured."

Other than that, I'm hard-pressed to come up with scenarios in which I would consider this to be a good idea.
posted by adipocere at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2009


xetere, that's an argument against browser plugins, not for popup windows.
posted by vsync at 1:11 PM on June 29, 2009


There are unusual cases where a popup window (carefully sized) works adequately, like in a help screen for a form (e.g., on an airline site). Another might be translation help, a situation you aren’t going to run into. Yet another may be running a video with a separate transcript or showing a sign-language interpreter (again, not likely).

In the normal course of events, though, it is a settled matter that links don’t open in new windows unless the visitor decides that.
posted by joeclark at 9:52 PM on June 29, 2009



However, a few friends have opined that I should set up my anchor tags to launch a new window so that my viewers don't get lured away from my site when they click on a link.


Your friends have a fundamental misunderstanding about how the web works.

The web is all about links. Links are what makes the web different from newspapers, books, and text files sent by email. Internal links are good and external links are good.

Your viewers can click on a button on their toolbar to leave your site. They can click on a hotkey. They can click on a bookmark in the menu. They can click the "close tab" button. They can exit the browser. Leaving your site is incredibly easy. Taking away links or popping up windows won't magically make people spend more time on your site.

Want your viewers to stay on your site? Create lots of really great stuff to read or stuff to do or stuff to buy. Link to it. Encourage them to link to it. And then treat them well.

[There are plenty of perfectly good reasons to pop up new tabs/windows for links. I'm just responding to the "luring away" attitude of your friends.]
posted by mmoncur at 2:28 AM on June 30, 2009


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