"Close this window"?
April 14, 2005 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Many sites that utilize user-initiated pop-up windows for photos or other content have a little link on the pop-up window that says "close this window." Why is this? Can't people just click the big "X" on their browser window to close it? Everyone knows how to close a browser window, right?
posted by arielmeadow to Computers & Internet (24 answers total)
Wrong! Sorry. Can't say it any simpler than that.
posted by scarabic at 5:15 PM on April 14, 2005

Apparently not. I think the programmers just found a way to charge a few bucks extra.
posted by fixedgear at 5:15 PM on April 14, 2005

Also, if you make it a button, you can embed tracking, so that you can tell how many people pushed the button to close the window. You can't track the closing of a window via the OS widget (not easily, across all OSes, anyway).
posted by scarabic at 5:17 PM on April 14, 2005

I think that placing the link within the page increases usability for people who use screen readers.
posted by 27 at 5:24 PM on April 14, 2005

Just poor UI design. Redundancy is nice, but that borders on stupidity. And yes, it's everywhere.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 PM on April 14, 2005

Usability is a key factor, but you can also use some javascript in the button event to refresh the parent window in order to reflect whatever changes (if any) may have been made in the child window.

As far as I know, there is no javascript event for closing the window by using the window controls in the title bar.
posted by purephase at 5:28 PM on April 14, 2005

27 is correct. C_D is wrong.
posted by mischief at 5:54 PM on April 14, 2005

Ha, funny you should ask this. Just the other day, I saw my boss doing the whole File>Close thing to close a window several times, and I said "You know you can close the window by hitting the X up there right?" He did not know.
posted by chiababe at 6:16 PM on April 14, 2005

How big is that "X" compared to "Close Window"? Generally, depending on font settings, the "X" is smaller than the text. Bigger targets are easier to hit with a mouse (see Fitt's Law) and therefore will be easier for the end user to acquire and fire off.

Couple that, with the fact that most pop-ups are not maximized (what's the point of that?) so you can't use the "corner method" to acquire the target quickly.

I have to emphasize that it can be used by screen readers and JAWS browsers to more easily describe the site's UI to the user. (Thanks 27 and mischief!)

Is it a case of bad UI? Maybe, maybe not. It can be an annoyance, but so is every instance of "Click Here" that I see. Still, as more and more non-computer savvy users browse the web they'll need more handholding.

Food for thought: how many ways are there to close a window in Windows?
posted by raygun21 at 6:16 PM on April 14, 2005

I would guess it's because that's the way Windows generally does its dialog boxes. It's not too hard to see why someone who wants to make their popup page look like a Windows dialog might borrow typical design elements of a dialog box, whether they make any sense on the popup page or not.

This is one of the little things that always confuses me when I am trying to use Windows, actually: every dialog box seems to have a "Close" button in addition to the plain ol' close button in the title bar. It has never been clear to me whether they are supposed to do the same thing, or whether you're supposed to use one instead of the other.
posted by Mars Saxman at 6:26 PM on April 14, 2005

Food for thought: how many ways are there to close a window in Windows?

I can think of 5, excluding killing apps via task manager. The X. Alt-F4. Double clicking the title bar icon (forget the name of that thing). Right-click close on the minimized taskbar icon. File->Exit.

There's proably more...
posted by jikel_morten at 6:49 PM on April 14, 2005

I had always assumed that was the secret "yes! please put some crap on my computer!" link.

I've never tested that theory, though. I'm just cynical.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:10 PM on April 14, 2005

We do it so people can tab to the close. That way there's no requirement to mouse (even though that's probably how they opened the window in the first place...). Makes it less like a web page and more like an application.
posted by theFlyingSquirrel at 7:19 PM on April 14, 2005

"Can't people just click the big "X" on their browser window to close it?"

But clicking the X will kill the entire process! Oh. Wait. You mean on a Microsoft Windows system. Alas, Microsoft Windows Is Not The Web.

On the server side you can specify a lot of things to happen on the browser end, but one of the things you have no control over whatsoever is how the window manager behaves or even if one is running. Or, for that matter, if there is even the concept of a "window" on the user's system. Maybe it's a cell phone or something.
posted by majick at 8:42 PM on April 14, 2005

mischief, screen readers can handle built-in windows widgets like close. So you're wrong. Neener, neener.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:09 PM on April 14, 2005

Same reason that some designers decide to put links to "top of page" everywhere (and I don't just mean on pages that have anchor links to themselves).

As if users are finding their web site before learning how to scroll!
posted by bruceyeah at 10:43 PM on April 14, 2005

Without a window manager, those links are very handy. In windows or on a mac, they're redundant.
posted by Nothing at 11:48 PM on April 14, 2005

I never use the boxes anyway, Ctrl-W (Windows) everytime.

I never understood this, and always attributed it to general stupidity, or tracking methods, perhaps timing the spawned windows lifespan..
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:29 AM on April 15, 2005

We are all savvy computer users. Not everyone else is.

Some people still get downright confused when a webpage opens a new window, especially when it's fullscreen, or nearly (i.e. why doesn't my Back button work?). Also, a lot of people have learned that accidentally clicking the X basically means 'losing your place on the web' -- particularly if you've never heard of the History feature.

Having an explicit 'Close' link in the actual content reassures them that is an appropriate action to take.
posted by chrismear at 1:31 AM on April 15, 2005

Yeah, others got to it first, but I was gonna come in to say, "why do they put that little "X" in the corner? Everyone knows about ctrl-W, right?"
posted by mdn at 6:12 AM on April 15, 2005

I think that placing the link within the page increases usability for people who use screen readers.

Let us all remember that businesses in America are held accountable to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates such things as tags on webpages (not specifically, but it is one of the ways to comply) for vision impaired readers. The "Close Window" link is another way to comply.
posted by spicynuts at 6:45 AM on April 15, 2005

You scan the window content. After scanning the content your eye naturally falls on the "Close" button, which is the next appropriate action. This way, you don't have to think about what to do. This is good design, because most pop-ups have an action of some sort for the user take. Those next steps usually follow the content.

Also, the target of a button is larger than the small x on a browser window. This makes the window easier to close.

I don't buy into the disabilities argument. If that were true you would see the words "close this window" on every web page.

I'm kind of shocked this actually bothers people. It simply makes closing the pop-up easier on a cognitive and motor-function level, and, for me, I usually want to close those things as quickly as possible.
posted by xammerboy at 8:10 AM on April 15, 2005

It bothers me, xammerboy, because it slows me down by introducing an extra decision. "Wait - huh, what now? Close it by clicking the link, or by closing it normally with cmd-W? Does the link do something special, I wonder? Is this weird javascript-laden web app going to go haywire if I just close the window normally instead of using their special little link, or is the link just a convenience for Windows people? Should I look at the source of this window to find out whether it makes a difference? Ah, fuck it, I'll just close it the way I always do, egotistical web designers be damned."
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2005

bruceyeah: My web accessibilty instructor recommended "Top of page" links for the sake of disabled users who would rather tab through links than use the scroll bar.

But I had never thought that pop-up designers had disabled accessibility as a high priority.

Mars Saxman: You may be overthinking things.
posted by RobotHero at 10:40 AM on April 15, 2005

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