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
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.