reprinted from SMASHING MAGAZINE
Place users in control
From the usability point of view the decision to enforce opening links in new windows violates one of the fundamental principles of the user interface design: users should always be in control of the interface they are interacting with.
Leading user interface and usability researchers such as
- Ben Shneiderman (8 Golden Rules of Interface Design),
- Theo Mandel (User Interface Design Principles)
- Jakob Nielsen (Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design) and
- Bruce Tognazzini (First Principles of Interaction Design)
claim that a user-friendly and effective user interface places users in control of the application they are using.
Users need to be able to rely on consistency of the user interface and know that they won’t be distracted or disrupted during the interaction. Users must know, understand and anticipate what is going on and what will happen once user interface elements are used. Any deviations from this convention result in a more design-oriented and less user-oriented design.
At first glance the decision to open links in new windows or not depends on the given site and the preferences of its visitors. Visitors of the sites with heavy linking are more willing to have links opened in new windows than open dozens of links in new windows manually. Visitors of less-heavy-linkage-sites are more likely to open some specific link in new window to remain on the site and continue to browse through it afterwards. However, this is not true.
Users also don’t like to deal with dozens of opened tabs and some visitors tend to quickly become angry with the disabled back-button. Furthermore, some visitors may not even realize that a new window was opened and hit the back-button mercilessly — without any result. That’s not user-friendly and that’s not a good user experience we, web designers, strive for.
To read the full article, visit Smashing Magazine.