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User Experience and target=”_blank”

Despite how much people don’t want it to be true, using target="_blank" when coding pages is becoming less and less of an accepted practice. But don’t take my word for it. There’s a reason that strict (X)HTML has dropped the target attribute from valid specs, and really, it’s a good one: designers/coders should not be making decisions for the user as to how a page opens. We might not like it, we might not agree with it, but in the end we should cede behavioral attributes to the user, who should be able to control their own experience. There’s no good reason not to let them, too. The marketing side of the argument is that you want to keep people on your site rather than send them away, and many times this is a harmless inference, but in the end if a user no longer wants to be on your site, they will leave whether or not you’re directing their links into a new window. Additionally, it is suggested that lay users find new windows opening to be confusing, frustrating, and an annoyance when it breaks accepted navigation, such as a browser’s back button (discussed in both Jakob Nielsen and Johan Petersson’s articles linked above).

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