Links Opening in New Tabs or Windows
We recommend that links should, generally, open in the same browser window/tab for optimum accessibility and usability.
Opening links in new tabs and windows can cause issues such as:
- Confusion for visually impaired site visitors and people using assistive technologies.
- A confusing user experience on mobile devices.
- Removing the choice from the user – whether they would like to open the link in a new tab/window or the same one.
- Causing the back button to stop working. Usability testing shows that the back button is a key navigation tool.
University of Oxford Accessibility Standard
University of Oxford websites must be compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.1 AA standard, which is in accordance with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.
WCAG guideline relating to links opening in new tabs/windows
Guideline 3.2 Predictable: make web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
An advisory technique for meeting this guideline is: G200: Opening new windows and tabs from a link only when necessary which recommends:
- Limit the use of links or buttons that open in new windows or tabs.
- In general, it is better not to open new windows or tabs as they can be disorientating for people, especially people who have difficulty perceiving visual content.
- There are situations where it is appropriate. For example: context-sensitive information that would disturb the workflow if a link opened in the same window (eg: help pages when completing a form) or if a user is logged in and following an external link would result in them being logged out of their session. (Some usability experts will also recommend opening different file types in a new tab/window - eg PDF and Word documents.)
- If you do open links in new tabs or windows you should give a warning that you are going to do this.
Many usability expert recommend that links should generally open in the same tab/window.