Yesterday, whilst learning to use Expression Engine, I learned that creating links to open in a new window was a bad thing. No further explanation was given so I turned to Twitter with the question: Question about creating web content: why is opening a link in a new window considered bad in terms of accessibility? I had a whole heap of really insightful and helpful replies so seeing as I’m learning so much about web accessibility, I figured I might as well share it here.
Web content answer c/o @MartinHatch [see below]:
1) Considered bad bcos blind/partially sighted users get disorientated…..when a new window opens as they lose the trail of where they have come from i.e. there’s no back/history in current window but
2) Opening a new window IS acceptable in terms of accessibility if you warn the user beforehand by putting “(opens in new window)” as part of the text for the link. However another downside is that it’s also sometimes confusing in less robust web environments such as on mobile phones where there’s not a clear interface for multiple windows / tabs.
I was a technical architect on the RNIB Website, feel free to ping me any questions around accessibility
I have never liked it, in terms of accessibility or otherwise. Hate having new windows/tabs opening everywhere & as I’m easily confused I _always_ try using the back button before I realise 🙂 there was a time when it was said that opening a new window was used to keep visitors on your site but if I click a link it is because I want to visit that page and will go back to the original site if I want to. Usually have enough tabs open don’t need them being opened for me 🙂
I think it becomes difficult for screen readers to follow what is going on. It also is a bit messy with all those open windows.
Because ‘less savvy’ users don’t realise a new window has opened, then they get confused when the back button doesn’t work.
The user should be allowed to decide if they want to open in a new window. Forcing this removes the option
[at this point I did indeed book myself into the Accessibility London event on 21st September]
I think it’s because most screen readers rely on the ‘back’ button, so it leaves the visually impaired stranded. Though I should stress that’s an educated guess, rather than a concrete answer.