Opening links in a new window? Yea or No Way?

A photo of a window in a brick buildingUsers of the calendar feature in the Learning Stream/GoSignMeUp registration management system have many choices in how their pages appear. Here’s one that few may give little thought: The calendar—or any other linked page in the software—can open in a new window. But should it?

It may not seem like a big deal either way. However, it’s good to know why a person might choose one option over the other.

Learning Stream is hosted on the cloud. Let’s say an organization wants to place a Learning Stream calendar on their website. That means potential registrants will leave the original web site when they begin the registration process. They may never notice. Still, some administrators set up their Learning Stream pages in a new window to make it easy to get back to their web site. Some also want to make it clear to the visitor that they’ve now exited the original site.

We have mixed feelings about opening links in a new window. We do it ourselves when our blog posts mention external web sites. Like this article on why you shouldn’t do what we’re doing here. Some people who spend a lot of time thinking about such things—and they do exist—say opening links in a new window isn’t such a good idea. Some of these experts go so far as to call this act “hostile.”

Here’s why:

  1. Think about the web sites you visit on a regular basis. A lot of them don’t open links in new windows. That’s because, in part, opening links in a new window can be slightly abrupt. Assuming there is such a thing as slightly abrupt.
  2. The back button is there for a reason. We all know how to use it. Therefore, opening links in a new window shouldn’t be necessary.
  3. The default option when embedding a link to another website is to keep it in the same window. You usually have to check an extra box if you want it to open in a new window. That may tell us something. Opening links in a new window goes against common practice.

Learning Stream has lots of ways to redirect registrants to the main web site at any point during and after registration and payment. So, it’s easy to take them back where they started, even if you don’t open links in a new window. Still, if opening links in a new window works in your situation, don’t fix what ain’t broke.

Have additional thoughts on opening links in a new window, or anything related to class registration software? We’re here to listen.