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What’s Wrong With New Browser Windows: It’s A Matter Of Accessibility

February 15th, 2010 by John Britsios in Accessibility,Usability

This is one of those minor annoyances all of us have experienced while using the web: you click on a link and instead of the new page opening in the current window, an entirely new window opens to display the page.

It’s not only an irritating phenomenon for visitors, but in terms of accessibility, opening new windows is a problem for many users; which means it’s also poor SEO practices since the search engines reward accessibly designed sites. Let’s have a look at why you shouldn’t have your links force the opening of new windows.

For starters, these new windows are generally opened by JavaScript or other server-side scripts which to be completely honest, you should avoid using in the first place if you’re concerned with accessibility. Many users (estimated at around 10%) disable these scripts, meaning that the new window won’t appear – and thinking the link broken, will likely go elsewhere for the content they’re looking for.

Visually impaired users have an especially hard time with new windows; it’s hard to tell what’s just happened without the visual cue of a new window appearing onscreen – and a screen reader really doesn’t have any way of informing the user.

You should also keep in mind that web browsers have back buttons for a reason – and that a new window prevents this navigation tool from working on the new page. Keep in mind that users can choose to open any link in a new window; there’s no reason to force them to.

Forcing new windows to open is bad for accessibility, irritating to users and as such, it’s bad SEO. Do away with this dubiously useful feature and your visitors will be much happier for it.

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