Generally, it’s better to avoid opening links in new windows or tabs

by on 20 April 2020 in ux, accessibility, design
  • It’s bad for usability, because it takes control away from users (for example, it breaks the back button functionality) and makes interactions unpredictable
  • It’s bad for accessibility because it can be disorienting for people, especially those who have access needs associated with perceiving visual content (for example people who use screen readers or screen magnifiers)
  • It can be bad for performance and security

Exceptions

Sometimes the experience might be improved by opening links in new windows or tabs. For example, if:

  • the link provides help from a different place
  • the link interrupts the user journey
  • the link leads to another type of document like a PDF
  • the link leads to a large image which takes time to download

In these situations the link text should clearly state what’s going to happen, for example: <a href="#" rel="noopener noreferrer">Link to a thing (opens in a new window or tab)</a>

Download attribute – update 11 May 2020

Adam suggests that PDF links can be downloaded to the device, instead of opened in a new tab, by using the download attribute.

Further reading