Opening New Windows

Discussion in 'HTML' started by Karl Core, Nov 4, 2004.

  1. Karl Core

    Karl Core Guest

    Below is an article I've just finished for my website which discusses "The
    Scourge of New Windows", available at:
    http://karlcore.com/articles/article.php?id=25



    The Scourge of New Windows



    Description - This article will discuss the usability and accessibility
    problems related to opening new windows, including popups and windows opened
    via the "target" attribute.



    scourge (skûrj) n.

    1.. A source of widespread dreadful affliction and devastation such as
    that caused by pestilence or war.
    2.. A means of inflicting severe suffering, vengeance, or punishment.
    3.. A whip used to inflict punishment.
    (source: Dictionary.com)



    On the surface, it seems a harsh overstatement to say that opening new
    windows is a scourge, but based on my experience, it is as accurate a
    statement as any when describing one of the worst ways a website can abuse
    its visitors. Although there are surely worse ways to inflict frustration
    and confusion on the people who come to your site, most of the time, these
    things are done to either be intentionally annoying or are done by people
    completely clueless about making websites such as amateurs and hobbyists.
    However, opening new windows is a practice of even the largest companies and
    most professional web designers. Why do they do this, and what are the
    effects?



    Windows Opened As Javascript Popups

    Popup windows are most often opened on the user's screen to create an
    inescapable advertising impression. In such a case, users' opinions are
    clearly demonstrated in the fact that no other web practice has spawned an
    entire industry dedicated to avoiding it.



    All major browsers now have pop-up blocking features, as do products like
    Norton Internet Security, Google Toolbar, and others.



    The public's hatred for popup ads has gotten so severe that Microsoft
    announced it would remove pop-ups from its US sites in 2003 and the
    extension of the policy worldwide follows a report by Forrester Research,
    which found that 64% of US internet users found pop-up ads irritating and
    28% avoided sites that allowed advertisers to use them.



    The helpless casualty in this situation is the popup windows that are
    created for the purpose of delivering in-context information such has help
    systems for an online form or an important tool such as a mortgage
    calculator. My opinions on new windows not withstanding, your user, in their
    quest to avoid popups, may miss out on important information or tools
    because they've become so aggrevated by popups that their software makes
    your site's features not work for them. The problem - on your end - is
    magnified by the fact that now the user thinks your site is broken when they
    click on a link and nothing happens. With the release of Microsoft's SP2
    update for Windows XP, this pain is being felt by companies across the
    globe. The new popup blocking feature in SP2 can make surfing some sites
    seem like "the Internet is broken" to users who don't understand why some
    links they click on do not work anymore.



    The real cure for this problem is in the fact that if you need to open a new
    window for important supplementary information, you'd better take a closer
    look at your information architecture. If you think a popup with additional
    information is going to help users, you're dodging the real problem - an
    information flow that is lacking somewhere. If the content of your site
    "requires" supplemental information from a new window, your users would be
    better served by a rewrite/ reorganization of that content so that it is
    more easy for them to use & understand, rather than a bandaid approach like
    a popup.





    Windows Opened Via The "target" Attribute

    While it appears that most are starting to "get the picture" about popup
    windows, sites are still relentlessly abusing their visitors through the use
    of new windows via the "target" attribute.



    Even though some sites use this method to create another method to provide
    supplementary content, this practice is often used to open new windows to
    send users to external (third-party) links. Naturally, opening these new
    windows for supplementary content shares the same information architecture
    problems as their pop-up siblings. Regardless of whether they're used for
    supplementary content or external links, the practice raises additional
    usability problems.



    One of my colleagues, from Darthmouth college writes:

    I have been doing some usability testing for a local hospital and we have

    been fortunate to have participants with no familiarity with the web all the

    way to self-described experts. We tested pages where external links opened

    in a new window and pages where external links opened in the same window.

    Nobody had trouble navigating when links opened in the same window. Many

    people had trouble navigating when links opened in a new window.



    -Most everyone used the back button to navigate the site and not the site

    navigation links.



    -Many people didn't notice when a new window opened, even when the page

    explicitly indicated that links would open in a new window.



    -Many people were unable to get back to the main site when a new window

    opened because the back button did not work.



    I have long thought that people get disoriented when following links and

    that I, as the designer, had to build in ways to help people keep their

    bearings. So I've done the javascript popups and the target="whatever". But

    from watching people work with the web I am starting to think that people

    don't really notice when they go from one site to another, and that they

    also don't really care. They are questing for information and don't much

    care where they get it. The damage done by trying to be helpful and impose

    "context" is much greater than that done by leaving people to make their own

    way.



    These observations mirrored my own. During a recent usability test, I
    noticed that new windows had caused disorientation in all users who had
    experienced them. Primarily, this manifested itself in the form of a
    "broken" back button. When users experienced these new windows and wished
    to go back to where they came from, they were unable to. In fact, ALL
    participants needed to be informed by the test facilitator that a new window
    had opened and that in order to get back to the site, they needed to close
    the new window. This is the last thing a facilitator wants to do.
    Interrupting a test participant derails the testing process, and a
    facilitator will often wait quite a long time to see if the participant can
    figure out the problem for themselves. However, the new windows were such a
    problem that the facilitator needed to interrupt the test so that we could
    continue.



    New windows opened via the "target" attribute causes confusion for the user,
    breaks the back button, and harms your users' perception of your site. For
    those who think that opening a new window will help keep the user from
    "losing the [original] site", the real effect is exactly the opposite.



    In a recent usability test I observed, about half the participants actually
    got lost. With the new window completely covering the original site, they
    did not notice that they had two (or more) windows open. In an attempt to
    return to the original site, they repeatedly hit the back button. When that
    didn't work, they totally closed all browser windows and completely started
    over. Despite the fact that some sites insist on opening new windows "so
    the visitor doesn't lose our site" when in actuality, the new windows appear
    to actually cause people to lose the site rather than keep them.



    During discussions of opening new windows with a colleague of mine, the
    argument was posed that seemed to make sense: The primary problem with these
    new windows wasn't just the fact that the new window existed. The biggest
    issue was the fact that the window

    was full size, therefore covering the old window completely. This, he said,
    is what caused the users' confusion. The solution my colleague proposed was
    that the new window should be created so that it is noticeably smaller than
    full screen - say, 700 x 500. On the surface, this seems like an excellent
    solution.



    Then, during another recent test, I noticed that users who encountered these
    smaller-than-full-sized windows would click the button in the upper
    right-hand corner in order to maximize the window. Because the site being
    tested opened new windows in multiple screens, some participants wound up
    with 3 or even 4 windows of the site open to full screen. It almost gave the
    impression that the new windows were cloning themselves. This pratice of
    opening smaller windows is certainly is not a "fix", in my opinion. Indeed,
    there's just no cure for the problems created by new windows except to
    simply avoid them.





    -Karl
    Karl Core, Nov 4, 2004
    #1
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  2. Quoth the raven Karl Core:

    > Below is an article I've just finished for my website


    Well said, Karl. I'll bookmark it.

    Couple of spelling errors though ...

    so aggrevated by popups
    from Darthmouth college
    This pratice

    Nice work.

    --
    -bts
    -This space intentionally left in same window.
    Beauregard T. Shagnasty, Nov 4, 2004
    #2
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  3. Karl Core

    Neal Guest

    On Thu, 4 Nov 2004 12:16:02 -0500, Karl Core <>
    wrote:
    > When that
    > didn't work, they totally closed all browser windows and completely
    > started
    > over. Despite the fact that some sites insist on opening new windows "so
    > the visitor doesn't lose our site" when in actuality, the new windows
    > appear
    > to actually cause people to lose the site rather than keep them.


    Perhaps "Despite the fact that some sites insist on opening new windows
    "so the visitor doesn't lose our site", in actuality the new windows..."

    Excellent.
    Neal, Nov 4, 2004
    #3
  4. In article <cmdo4l$spt$>,
    says...
    > Below is an article I've just finished for my website which discusses "The
    > Scourge of New Windows", available at:
    > http://karlcore.com/articles/article.php?id=25


    Why post it all here?

    --
    Hywel
    Hywel Jenkins, Nov 4, 2004
    #4
  5. While the city slept, Hywel Jenkins () feverishly
    typed...

    > In article <cmdo4l$spt$>,
    > says...
    >> Below is an article I've just finished for my website which
    >> discusses "The Scourge of New Windows", available at:
    >> http://karlcore.com/articles/article.php?id=25

    >
    > Why post it all here?


    Maybe he's going for the "Top 10 posters by size" weekly award??? ;-)

    Cheers,
    Nige

    --
    Nigel Moss
    http://www.nigenet.org.uk
    Mail address not valid. , take the DOG. out!
    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is very, very busy!
    nice.guy.nige, Nov 4, 2004
    #5
  6. Karl Core

    Karl Core Guest

    "Hywel Jenkins" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > In article <cmdo4l$spt$>,
    > says...
    >> Below is an article I've just finished for my website which discusses
    >> "The
    >> Scourge of New Windows", available at:
    >> http://karlcore.com/articles/article.php?id=25

    >
    > Why post it all here?


    Because I didn't want to come off as a spammer trying to get people to come
    to my site.
    I provided the URL for those who wished to bookmark it for future reference.

    -Karl
    Karl Core, Nov 4, 2004
    #6
  7. Karl Core

    Karl Core Guest

    "Beauregard T. Shagnasty" <> wrote in message
    news:iDtid.40390$...
    > Quoth the raven Karl Core:
    >
    >> Below is an article I've just finished for my website

    >
    > Well said, Karl. I'll bookmark it.
    >
    > Couple of spelling errors though ...
    >
    > so aggrevated by popups
    > from Darthmouth college
    > This pratice
    >
    > Nice work.
    >


    Thanks for the heads-up, BTS. I fixed the errors.

    -Karl
    Karl Core, Nov 4, 2004
    #7
  8. Karl Core

    Sam Hughes Guest

    Hywel Jenkins <> wrote in
    news::

    > In article <cmdo4l$spt$>,
    > says...
    >> Below is an article I've just finished for my website which discusses
    >> "The Scourge of New Windows", available at:
    >> http://karlcore.com/articles/article.php?id=25

    >
    > Why post it all here?


    50 years from now, Google Groups users will thank him.
    Sam Hughes, Nov 4, 2004
    #8
  9. Karl Core

    brucie Guest

    In alt.html Karl Core said:

    > http://karlcore.com/articles/article.php?id=25


    i suppose its ok but i would be much happier if there was much more
    swearing and nudity.


    --
    the facts and opinions expressed by brucies
    l i t t l e v o i c e s
    are not necessarily the same as those held by brucie.
    brucie, Nov 4, 2004
    #9
  10. nice.guy.nige, Nov 5, 2004
    #10
  11. Karl Core

    brucie Guest

    brucie, Nov 5, 2004
    #11
  12. Karl Core

    Neal Guest

    Neal, Nov 5, 2004
    #12
  13. Karl Core

    rf Guest

    nice.guy.nige wrote
    > While the city slept, brucie () feverishly typed...


    > > i suppose its ok but i would be much happier if there was much more
    > > swearing and nudity.

    >
    > Will this do? http://www.nigenet.org.uk/stuff/newwindowsbad.html ;-)


    That thumbnail image *should* be a link. I have a large desire to click on
    it :)

    --
    Cheers
    Richard.
    rf, Nov 5, 2004
    #13
  14. Karl Core

    brucie Guest

    In alt.html rf said:

    >> Will this do? http://www.nigenet.org.uk/stuff/newwindowsbad.html ;-)


    > That thumbnail image *should* be a link.


    true

    > I have a large desire to click on it :)


    can your wife confirm that?

    --
    the facts and opinions expressed by brucies
    l i t t l e v o i c e s
    are not necessarily the same as those held by brucie.
    brucie, Nov 5, 2004
    #14
  15. Karl Core

    rf Guest

    brucie

    > can your wife confirm that?


    She's out.

    --
    Cheers
    Richard.
    rf, Nov 5, 2004
    #15
  16. Karl Core

    brucie Guest

    In alt.html rf said:

    >> can your wife confirm that?


    > She's out.


    you shouldn't hit her so hard

    --
    the facts and opinions expressed by brucies
    l i t t l e v o i c e s
    are not necessarily the same as those held by brucie.
    brucie, Nov 5, 2004
    #16
  17. Karl Core

    Neredbojias Guest

    Without quill or qualm, Karl Core quothed:

    > Below is an article I've just finished for my website which discusses "The
    > Scourge of New Windows", available at:
    > http://karlcore.com/articles/article.php?id=25


    Like anything, "new" windows can be good or bad, used or abused, liked or
    unliked. This isn't philosophy, it's pragmatism.
    Neredbojias, Nov 5, 2004
    #17
  18. Karl Core

    Karl Core Guest

    "Neredbojias" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Without quill or qualm, Karl Core quothed:
    >
    >> Below is an article I've just finished for my website which discusses
    >> "The
    >> Scourge of New Windows", available at:
    >> http://karlcore.com/articles/article.php?id=25

    >
    > Like anything, "new" windows can be good or bad, used or abused, liked or
    > unliked. This isn't philosophy, it's pragmatism.


    Hi. What part of "participants in usability studies" did you miss?

    -Karl
    Karl Core, Nov 5, 2004
    #18
  19. Karl Core

    Neredbojias Guest

    Without quill or qualm, Karl Core quothed:

    > > Like anything, "new" windows can be good or bad, used or abused, liked or
    > > unliked. This isn't philosophy, it's pragmatism.

    >
    > Hi. What part of "participants in usability studies" did you miss?
    >
    > -Karl


    Do you deny that "new" windows can provide more accessibility and user-
    friendliness than "same" windows? If so, you suffer from the same
    hysteria which affects so new-window antagonists.

    --
    Neredbojias
    Contrary to popular belief, it is believable.
    Neredbojias, Nov 5, 2004
    #19
  20. Karl Core

    brucie Guest

    In alt.html Neredbojias said:

    > Do you deny that "new" windows can provide more accessibility and user-
    > friendliness than "same" windows?


    no but i support empowering the visitor so they can make the decision
    for themselves what is best for them and they're all _individuals_.

    if you think one way is more user friendly than another or your
    usability testing indicates one way is better than the other then do
    that. its simple with a bit of giggly scripting to make site wide
    behavioral changes for those that prefer it the other way.

    i think people forget they have the power to cater to all their visitors
    with just a bit of thinking and effort, not just the majority or the
    minority.

    wow, this batch of crack is really good!

    > If so, you suffer from the same hysteria which affects so new-window
    > antagonists.


    i don't care as long as i can get nude and run around in circles waving
    my arms in the air screaming "the cornflakes are soggy, the cornflakes
    are soggy"

    --
    the facts and opinions expressed by brucies
    l i t t l e v o i c e s
    are not necessarily the same as those held by brucie.
    brucie, Nov 5, 2004
    #20
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